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The hidden Democratic primary poll numbers in Georgia's Senate race

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I have been following the US Senate race to fill the seat of retiring Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss since he announced last year that he would not seek re-election when his term expires this year.

As expected, in a red state like Georgia, a host of Republicans lined up to run for this seat.

I am especially drawn to the Democratic primary because Chambliss’ retirement gives the Democrats an excellent opportunity to pick up a Senate seat that has not been held by a Democrat since 1992.

Georgia also is critical to Democrats holding onto control of the Senate.

Michelle Nunn, a political neophyte and daughter of the last Democratic senator from Georgia, Sam Nunn, entered the race. She has amassed a campaign kitty in the neighborhood of $6.5 million.

Her campaign has largely ignored the rank and file of the Democratic Party. She has declined to appear at most political forums, including those held by Democratic Party organizations.

In some instances she has sent her campaign manager, Kent Alexander, a former federal prosecutor.

According to a SurveyUSA poll taken two weeks ago, Nunn’s chief competitor for the Democratic nomination is Steen Milles, a veteran Emmy Award-winning broadcast journalist and a former state senator. If the margin of error of 4.7 percent is on the minus side, Miles in poised to force Nunn into a run-off. Yet most mainstream news media accounts of the Democratic primary race will only say that Nunn is the "likely to win."

If elected, Miles would be the first woman to serve in the Senate from Georgia and the second woman to serve since 1922, when 87-year-old segregationist Rebecca Latimer Felton was appointed by Gov. Thomas Hardwick to fill out an expired term.

Also, Miles would be the first African American and the first African American woman elected to the Senate from the Deep South.

Can Miles do it?

She has raised less than $2,000 in campaign contributions, most of which has been spent in travel expenses as she has crisscrossed the state by automobile to speak to every voter she can reach.

Her campaign style contrasts with that of Nunn, who relies upon her campaign war chest to blast her nondescript message via television. Nunn’s message is targeted to Republicans and independents who lean Republican.

Miles has targeted her message to a more traditional Democratic audience.

According to a poll conducted for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) May 5-8 by ABT SRBI of New York, Georgia’s likely independent voters lean toward Republicans.

This does not bode well for Nunn as it is less likely that an independent-minded Republican would vote for her over an established Republican.

It does give Miles an extra missile in her arsenal to persuade Georgia voters that she has the better chance of defeating the Republican nominee in November.

In disclosing certain information from this poll, the AJC declined to report any polling data from the Democratic primary. Their reporters, Greg Bluestein and Daniel Malloy, would only report Nunn as the “likely Democratic nominee.”

When this reporter shared this information with Miles, she queried: “What are the numbers? If Nunn has such a big lead that she is the likely nominee, why won’t they release the numbers?”

Then Miles put on her journalist hat: “Every time the media release a poll,” she said, “they never say what the percentages are between Nunn and me. I know better than that – they have to know what the numbers are.”

“I am out every day talking to voters. I know what they are telling me about the positions I take on the issues and how frustrated they are with the fact that Nunn does not come out to meet with them,” Miles said.

I don’t know why the public does not have any polling data on the Democratic primary race.

Perhaps the AJC did not poll the Democratic primary given the fact that Georgia is a red state and a Republican is most likely to win in November.

On the other hand, the big bosses may think that the family name of Nunn and $6.5 million in a perfect world should produce a winner.

These assumptions defy the ground game Miles is grinding day in and day out. Political polls tend to disregard unlikely voters and minorities who are drawn to Miles’ message.

Then again, Bluestein asked Miles after a Tuesday-night forum this week, “Why do you think your campaign is doing so well?”

It could be that 10 days from the election, the AJC does not have a clue as to how the race in the Democratic primary is shaping up.

Harold Michael Harvey, JD, is the author of the legal thriller “Paper Puzzle,” available at Amazon.

Sources:

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, "AJC Poll find finds tight races for governor, Senate,” May 10, 2014

“Teenie: Newslady in Training," Steen Miles, Orman Press, Inc., 2007

http://www.senate.gov/artandhistory/history/minute/First_Woman_Senator_Appointed.htm