Proponents of a strong two-party state government ought to be jubilant at the outcome of Georgia's Feb. 5 presidential primary.
The record turnout suggests that the state Democratic Party is on its way to becoming the comeback donkey.
Ordinarily, individual presidential primaries are meaningless blips on the charts of history. Because primary participants are mostly activists voting in modest numbers, the primaries hardly ever provide an accurate preview of coming events. The 2008 Georgia primary may be different. If it is, a tsunami is in the making.
Check out this profile of our primary:
· Republicans still rule, but: More Georgians chose a Republican ballot in 103 of Georgia's 159 counties, yet statewide, Democrats outvoted Republicans by a 5 percent margin.
· Democrats roared: Thirty percent more Georgians cast ballots in this year's Democratic primary than in 2006 for Democratic Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor in the general election for governor. At the same time, the total Republican vote was down nearly 25 percent from Gov. Sonny Perdue's 2006 high-water mark.
· The dividing lines: Most of Georgia appears on a color-coded map to be fairly evenly divided between the parties. Democratic dominance continues in the state's metropolitan cores, as well as in Southwest Georgia and the Macon-to-Augusta corridor. The GOP still reigns in North and Southeast Georgia. However, Republican power is slipping. In 2004, President Bush carried Cobb and Gwinnett counties, then considered the center of GOP might, by a whopping 28 percent. In the presidential primary, the GOP had only a 7 percent edge over Democrats in the number of ballots cast in both counties.
For the first time since she took office a year ago, Democratic Party Chairman Jane Kidd had more to smile about than Republican leaders being outed as immoral nitwits. "We are very enthusiastic about the turnout," Kidd says. "You watch. This is just the beginning."
So what does it all mean?
For starters, more blacks are voting than ever. Spurred by the charisma of Barack Obama, African Americans accounted for nearly 60 percent of the Georgia Democratic primary voters. If Obama survives the primaries and emerges as the nominee, look for black voting to skyrocket in the November election. He also has the potential of attracting more young voters of all races, as well as some Republicans disgruntled by the present state of their party. If Obama fizzles and Sen. Hillary Clinton prevails as the nominee, African-American voters may lose much of their enthusiasm for going to the polls. She will have almost no pull with Republicans, even disgruntled ones.
Latinos, mostly Democrats, are voting in steadily increasing numbers. Hispanic voter registration in Georgia was said to be up this year over last by more than 12,000. Georgia legislators who spend much of their time dreaming up new legal tortures for migrant laborers ought to look for another line of work.
Then there's history - the perpetual spoiler of any good yarn. This tale ought to end with Democrats regaining parity in Georgia and a Democrat moving into the White House.
Will it really? Take a short look back at Democratic presidential campaigns. Democratic nominees, with the exception of Bill Clinton, soared in the summers then fell with the autumn leaves.
In Atlanta in 1988, Mike Dukakis marched out of the Democratic convention in July with a 17-point lead over Republican George H. W. Bush. By October, Dukakis was washed up.
Vice President Al Gore looked to be a 55-45 shoo-in against a Republican Texas governor who, the media pointed out, did not even know the names of the president of Romania or the Emir of Tunisia. The race ended in a photo finish with the Supreme Court clearing the way for George W. Bush to become president.
Sen. John Kerry looked good to go as he charged out of the Democratic convention in the summer of 2004 to challenge Bush, whose popularity had begun to plummet. By November, snob-surfer Kerry allowed himself to be branded a wartime fraud, and he was a dead duck.
One can get even money that Democrats are so cursed with the autumn blues that the nominee will be out of gas - again - in November.
You can reach Bill Shipp at P.O. Box 2520, Kennesaw, GA 30156, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on the Web at billshipponline.com.