Political Insider

An AJC blog about Atlanta politics, Georgia politics, Georgia and metro Atlanta election campaigns. Because all politics is local.

Georgia Republicans clear the deck for a Johnny Isakson finish

A presidential contest? Yeah, there may be one of those tomorrow.

But you could hardly tell if you were at Cobb County GOP headquarters on Monday evening, where all decks and all other agendas were cleared in favor of making sure U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s re-election bid ends in the next 24 hours. Without a nine-week runoff.

Isakson faces Democrat Jim Barksdale and Libertarian Allen Buckley on Tuesday's ballot.

Four congressmen, a spanking new attorney general, an agriculture commissioner, a lieutenant governor and a major-general governor were in attendance with Isakson, several of them wrapping up a two-and-a-half day fly-around with the state's senior senator.

Isakson’s home county was the last stop. Walls of Cobb GOP headquarters were plastered with Isakson signs – and Isakson signs only. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump received two cursory mentions from the lectern: One shout-out from U.S. Rep. Tom Price of Roswell and a second from House colleague Tom Graves of Ranger.

To be truthful, there were more Price baseball caps in the crowd than there were those with the logo “Make America Great Again.” (Three to two, if you want the exact count.)

But the best measure of other concerns being swept aside: Gov. Nathan Deal waxed eloquent about Isakson, but gave no mention to Amendment 1, his own constitution proposal to permit state government to take protective custody of individual failing schools.

Deal had just finished two days of campaigning for Isakson. He linked Isakson’s re-election to federal funding necessary to complete the dredging of the Port of Savannah. “Without Johnny’s leadership and without the leadership of the other members of our House delegation, we’re not going to get that done in a timely fashion,” the governor said. “It is important not just to the coastal area of Georgia, not just to the state of Georgia, but to the entire United States. So his leadership there makes a difference.”

The governor noted that Congress will play a role in resolving the water wars among Georgia, Alabama and Florida – and will determine which of those states will grow, and which might not.

That Deal would give up two days of campaigning for Isakson, rather than favor his Opportunity School District proposal, is a clear indication of GOP priorities.

Last-minute polls show that Isakson is poised to break the 50-percent mark required by state election law, but he’s within the margin of error.

To cross that bar, Isakson will need the support of voters who don’t support Trump, and don’t support the governor’s school rescue initiative. And so the pinpoint focus. (Isakson has said he intends to vote for Trump, but also has been critical of the Republican presidential nominee's statements.)

For the 71-year-old Isakson, the Marietta stop was a homecoming that could be the coda on 42 years of political campaigning. He took note of the unknown that was headed this way. “You never know what the big issue is going to be when you have to confront it. I don’t know it today, and you don’t know it today. But I promise you this – I’m prepared for it,” Isakson said.

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About the Author

Jim Galloway is a three-decade veteran of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution who writes the Political Insider blog and column.