I agree with Jim, and I’d go a bit further—this is the latest example of Barack Obama playing the long game and ignoring the conventional wisdom du jour.
Cast your mind back to May, after Obama won North Carolina and basically tied Hillary Clinton in Indiana, closing out her chances of winning a delegate majority in the primaries. Clinton responded by pounding the pavement in West Virginia, Kentucky, Oregon, Puerto Rico, South Dakota, and Montana. She won four of these contests, three of them in landslides. Amazingly, it didn’t seem like Obama was trying to win any of the states except for Oregon, South Dakota, and Montana. He only campaigned one day in West Virginia. He let South Dakota slip away even after George McGovern un-endorsed Clinton and endorsed him. Instead, he started raising money for the general election and campaigning in swing states like Iowa and Missouri.
Obama took his knocks from reporters and pundits. Hillary “won the fourth quarter” of the primaries. She got close (or won, if you count the Michigan sham primary) in the popular vote. PUMAS were emboldened. Tongues wagged about how Obama “couldn’t close the deal.” And yet, in retrospect, Obama was completely right. He got a head start on organizing for the general election, which was the only thing he cared about.
I see the same thing here. Martin, let’s remember, was never expected to win this election. He had lost a race for lieutenant governor in 2006 and was pulled out of mothballs to stop crooked DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones from winning the Senate nomination and dragging down the ticket. (It’s never a good sign when your candidate has to answer rape charges.) Not until the bailout vote did Chambliss start to slip, and even then I don’t think he slipped below Martin in any poll.
What were Obama’s choices here? Either he could stump for Martin and pull out, maybe, a few more percentage points for him. Martin would have lost and Obama would have been directly linked to the loss. It would have been a replay of 1992, when Bill Clinton used his political capital to try and save Sen. Wyche Fowler in his runoff against Paul Coverdell. Clinton looked like a fool when Fowler lost, and it fueled the idea that he only won the election because of Ross Perot. Senate Republicans, who have so far not been combative towards Obama, would have been personally affronted.
Obviously, a Chambliss loss would have been a shocking death blow to Republican hopes. But Chambliss’s survival hasn’t altered Democratic plans at all.