No Obama, No Turnout

Sen. Saxby Chambliss's (R-Ga.) overwhelming victory Tuesday was due to many things, including an impressive grassroots effort and base-rallying visits by high-profile Republicans such as John McCain and Sarah Palin. But key to Chambliss's impressive margin of victory last night was the fact that turnout was low — an estimated 30-35 percent.

Turnout in runoff elections is generally much lower than in the general election, as was indeed the case in Georgia's 1992 runoff between Wyche Fowler and Paul Coverdell. This year's elections, however, were different, and Barack Obama was supposed to lead scores of new voters to the polls, if not the Promised Land.

Georgia shows us what many in the GOP have suspected: that, if Barack Obama's name is not on the ballot, many of his supporters — especially new voters — are less likely to show up. Yes, Obama cut an ad urging his supporters to go to the polls to support Jim Martin. But for many, Obama is their cause, not down-ballot candidates.

This bodes well for Republicans running in 2010, because, as one veteran of campaign politics told me, without Obama "the turnout model is status quo."

It also means that Al Franken is suddenly a lot less important to Senate Democrats.