It may seem a bit early to be thinking about the next Senate election. But a politician's campaign season is longer than the gestation period of an elephant (about 11 months — now you don't need to Google it).
When Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) announced his retirement, the statistically unlikely task of winning against an incumbent was taken off the table — giving Georgia a chance to contribute to a change in party popularity in the Senate.
When Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) was replaced by Jeffrey Chiesa (R-NJ) on June 6, the party division became even more competitive with 52 Democrats, 46 Republicans and 2 Independents.
With a Senate seat up for grabs this nation ponders the question: What will Georgia do?
The declared Democrats are: Branko Radulovacki, an Atlanta physician, and Michelle Nunn, CEO of Points of Light. On the Republican side we have: former Secretary of State Karen Handel, Rev. Derrick Grayson, businessmen Eugene Yu and David Perdue (cousin of former Gov. Sonny Perdue), and U.S. Reps. Paul Broun, Phil Gingrey, and Savannah's own Jack Kingston.
According to a survey released Aug. 5 from the left-leaning firm Public Policy Polling, Democrat Michelle Nunn is virtually tied with the two most prominent GOP candidates: Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) and businessman David Perdue. While the Republican playing field looks crowded with a number of candidates polling well, Nunn is by far the front-running Democrat.
Playing to her advantage is that her father, former Senator Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), is still favorable to 56 percent of the people recently surveyed by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Sam Nunn was even more favorable to white voters in this survey, at 62 percent. Her father's approval rating can certainly work to her advantage. But, even though her father's name is established, Michelle Nunn has only recently entered the political arena.
In an interview with Morris News she comments on her father, "He is someone I have learned a lot from and want to carry on his legacy." She added that her father helped shape her views when she stated that "the defense industry and the military bases here are vital to our economy." Her great, great uncle chaired an influential defense committee and federal interest in Georgia's military bases were advocated by her father during his Senate career.
While she is genetically linked to politics, Michelle Nunn's credentials are not limited to her family tree. Nunn, 47, is on leave from her job as CEO of the volunteer organization Points of Light — an organization, she points out, that was founded by former President George H.W. Bush.
Even so, Republicans wasted no time trying to pin Michelle Nunn to President Barack Obama — assuming it might hurt her campaign because of Obama's generally low approval rating in Georgia.
In an email to her supporters, former Secretary of State Karen Handel described Nunn as "President Obama's liberal, hand-picked candidate." The state Republican Party issued a statement promising regular attacks.
While Republicans are loading verbal ammunition to fire against Nunn, she wasn't shy to criticize Obama when saying that she wishes more actions were being taken to address the federal deficit.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Nunn claims that "we need to take a much harder look at that and really make some hard choices, and I think neither side is willing to do that."
Nunn added that she has "spent a lot of time looking at how people are willing to sacrifice for others and to be called upon for something greater than themselves, and I think that is a big part of the equation for solving the deficit."
Nunn also didn't seem like "President Obama's liberal, hand-picked candidate" when she explained that changes need to be made to Obama's signature health care law.
"I think we need to look at it from a pragmatic perspective and fix the things that are not working and move it forward without all the politicizing," said Nunn.
Nunn also points out that some aspects of the Affordable Care Act are beneficial, using the detail of how parents will still be able to keep kids on their health insurance until age 26.
On a local scale, Nunn — who was just in town this past Monday to help give out Meals on Wheels to Savannah seniors — favors taxpayer spending on deepening the shipping channel of the Savannah River.
Whether Nunn will be able to continue her momentum in a relentlessly red state remains to be seen.
But one thing's for sure, given the crowded field overall: The next year will be quite an interesting one for Georgia political observers.