ATLANTA — The scramble for a seat in the U.S. Senate is likely to resemble bumper cars more than the usual cliché of a horse race because of so many candidates.
There are nine candidates so far. It’s still 11 months before the primary, so more could join the fray. Plus, the Libertarian Party has yet to pick its candidate.
At least it has a variety of candidates: three congressmen, three physicians, two immigrants, two former firemen, two wealthy businessmen, two who launched charities, two women, two blacks and one Asian, but no lawyers.
They hail from all over the state: Athens, Augusta, Savannah, Sea Island, Columbus and metro Atlanta. A pair of candidates are newcomers from South Georgia political families.
A field of six almost guarantees a runoff on the Republican side and increases the possibility on the Democratic side with three. Since the candidates know this, they’ll seek to raise enough money from the beginning to carry them through a prolonged primary/runoff season with the possibility of a general-election runoff as well.
That will soak up money being sought by the two declared gubernatorial candidates and the 19 declared congressional candidates.
GOP candidates David Perdue and Eugene Yu are certain to put into their campaigns some of the personal wealth they amassed in business before their retirements.Perdue said, “I will be the campaign’s biggest investor.”
The money, of course, is for advertising, which will become another battleground later. Simply reserving adequate television air time will result in a tug-of-war of sorts between all of these candidates.
Even competition for news coverage will be fierce, what political operatives call “earned media.” Just listing all of the candidates will consume space that could have gone toward explaining their views, so journalists will decide which are the most viable and concentrate on them.
Political junkies are sure to be entertained.
Which candidates benefit from these circumstances?
As in any campaign, high name recognition and fundraising prowess are vital. A large base vote, though, becomes increasingly important with each new contender.
That makes additional battlegrounds of the factions. For Republicans, that will be libertarian conservatives, anti-abortion Christians and economic conservatives. For Democrats, it will be blacks, environmentalists and gays.
For example, many observers have speculated that Paul Broun’s social conservatism would force the other Republicans toward the right to contend for the anti-abortion Christians and libertarians. But with the arrival of Perdue and Yu, competition for economic conservatives suddenly became more fierce, which pulls centrist candidates into a fight for that faction as well. If they stray too far, they risk yielding a large faction to Broun.
A candidate who can command a faction as his or her base then has the freedom to compete for other factions.
How to do this is why political strategists garner so much money. They’ll certainly have to earn it in the months ahead
Walter Jones is the Atlanta bureau chief for Morris News and has been covering Georgia politics since 1998. Follow him on Twitter @MorrisNews and Facebook or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and (404) 589-8424.