Whatever turns out to be the case, at the close of early voting Wednesday, according to the Secretary of State's office 345,564 had voted, and 22.5% of those votes were African-American, an ominous dropoff from the 34.5% of black early voters for the general election.
If Saxby does manage to significantly expand from his 3 point lead on November 4th, we can start writing the story of how the African American and youth turnout for Obama really mattered.
A massive turnout that brings the marginally interested into the process is usually a holy grail for Democrats but one that they haven't been able to tap into until this year. For perspective's sake, just consider that from 2000 to 2004, the electorate expanded by 16% -- and the country voted 3 points more Republican.
As I wrote in The Straight-Ticket Youth Vote, the identity politics vote based on Obama's personal characteristics -- young and African-American -- may have counted for as much as 6 points of his victory margin -- about 4 points in the increased youth margin and turnout, and about 2 points in increased African American turnout and margin. Not only did this benefit Obama but young people also voted straight ticket for Democratic Congressional candidates. The youth vote on November 4th was about as Democratic as the Latino vote -- and twice as large.
Those advantages are not going to be at play for Jim Martin, a boring white guy.
It's in Georgia that we may begin to see indications of a natural tightening of the House generic ballot for 2010. And it's not so much the African American vote -- though that's a big deal in Georgia -- as it is the youth vote.
If 18-29 voters are back to 12% of the electorate (where they were in '06) from 17%, that's an automatic 2 points extra for GOP Congressional candidates even if the margin stays at inflated 2008 rates. And without Obama at the top of the ticket, it's hard to see how it could. So Obama reshaped the electorate, but probably did it just for one day and one candidate. And if Jim Martin doesn't exceed expectations with Obama's organizers down in Georgia also suggests that the candidate matters more than the tactics in driving GOTV.
Georgia will be the first test of whether Obama's massive turnout surge proves realigning for other Democrats. Pre-runoff polls, though, suggest that it won't be.