Budowsky: Southern Dem stars in 2014

While the last Republican governor of Virginia appears headed toward prison, the senior Democratic senator from Virginia is headed toward a landslide reelection and serious consideration for the Democratic ticket in 2016.  

While the last Republican governor of Virginia appears headed toward prison, the senior Democratic senator from Virginia is headed toward a landslide reelection and serious consideration for the Democratic ticket in 2016.

The rise of Sen. Mark WarnerMark Robert WarnerGrenell says intelligence community working to declassify Flynn-Kislyak transcripts McConnell gives two vulnerable senators a boost with vote on outdoor recreation bill The Hill's Coronavirus Report: Mnuchin sees 'strong likelihood' of another relief package; Warner says some businesses 'may not come back' at The Hill's Advancing America's Economy summit MORE (D-Va.) and the statewide success of Democrats in Virginia are the cutting-edge of the changing face of the political South. Many of the shining stars of the 2014 campaign are Southern Democratic candidates who are within striking range of victory despite the huge undertow of high unpopularity of President Obama. It is a powerful achievement for this new generation of Southern Democrats.


Warner is the prototype Democratic star of 2014. He has been a brilliantly successful entrepreneur, a highly successful governor and a widely respected senator from a state that can now be described as somewhere between deep purple and light blue.

Big things are happening in the South. Warner has good company in the growing constellation of Democratic stars in a South that is increasingly purple and no longer red.

In North Carolina, Democratic Sen. Kay HaganKay Ruthven HaganThe Hill's Campaign Report: North Carolina emerges as key battleground for Senate control Tillis wins North Carolina Senate primary Coronavirus poses risks for Trump in 2020 MORE remains standing tall and poised to defeat an onslaught of conservative money and GOP power from Tar Heel Republicans who have moved far to the right of the state and the South.

In Georgia, Michelle Nunn, who embodies political independence and a spirit of bipartisan governing, has pulled ahead of her GOP opponent, whose image is tarnished by a business career of outsourcing jobs, in several recent polls listed in the must-read poll section at Real Clear Politics.

Nunn could emerge as a big Southern Democratic star in 2014 as well. Her father, former Sen. Sam Nunn, is universally admired throughout the state. Her career, including nonpartisan civic leadership in her community and management of the Points of Light Foundation originated by former President George H.W. Bush, defines her as the problem-solving stateswoman voters seek in public life.

In Kentucky, while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellPence: Next coronavirus relief bill would need legal shield for businesses GOP faces internal conflicts on fifth coronavirus bill State Department scrutiny threatens Pompeo's political ambitions MORE (R-Ky.) appears to be measuring the curtains for his new majority leader office next January, a recent poll from the Louisville Courier Journal shows Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes within 1 percentage point of McConnell. Another poll from Western Kentucky University shows her within 3 points.

Like a thoroughbred racing in the Kentucky Derby, with the fervent support of the highly popular Clintons against the highly unpopular McConnell, Grimes is coming down the home stretch within striking range of an upset victory, which makes her a Southern Democratic star alongside Warner, Hagan and Nunn.

Despite the triumphalism of Republicans who boast about their plans after what they expect to be a Republican Senate takeover — an overconfidence that is unwise and repellant to voters — the race for Senate control appears headed to a photo finish. The curtains for the majority leader office may not be selected until runoffs in December or January!

In Louisiana, don’t count Sen. Mary LandrieuMary Loretta LandrieuA decade of making a difference: Senate Caucus on Foster Youth Congress needs to work to combat the poverty, abuse and neglect issues that children face Dems wrestle over how to vote on ‘Green New Deal’ MORE (D-La.) out. According to the Real Clear Politics polling summary, the most likely outcome in Louisiana is that Landrieu wins by a plurality of votes in November but will be an underdog during a runoff in December. But Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonBlair questions Trump approach to coronavirus pandemic Has Justice Department partisanship finally hit a wall?  Bill Clinton, James Patterson team up for another book, 'The President's Daughter' MORE has been campaigning for Landrieu again this week. The New Orleans Times Picayune recently gave her a powerful endorsement praising her power to help Louisiana as chairwoman of the Senate Energy Committee, and reminding voters that every time danger struck the state, as with Hurricane Katrina, Landrieu was there for Louisiana with power and force.

If Senate control is decided by a Louisiana runoff in December, Landrieu will outperform current polls. The white-hot intensity of a runoff, with barnstorming campaigning by Bill and Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump retweets personal attacks on Clinton, Pelosi, Abrams Biden swipes at Trump: 'Presidency is about a lot more than tweeting from your golf cart' GOP faces internal conflicts on fifth coronavirus bill MORE while the entire nation watches the Bayou State, will bring a sky-high turnout of Democratic voters, especially blacks.

It is an astounding and spectacular achievement for these Southern Democratic stars to be ahead or within striking range of victory despite the huge unpopularity of Obama.

If Bill Clinton were president today, analysts would be talking about the Democratic surge in the South, and if Hillary Clinton runs in 2016, no state of the changing South will be safe for the GOP.


Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Contributors Blog and reached at brentbbi@webtv.net.