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Jimmy Carter’s grandson, Peach State Dems, and an awkward charade

Jason Carter's run for governor meets muddled messaging.

An erstwhile sleepy 2014 cycle in Georgia has been awakened by a set of legacy Democrats seeking to revive the party’s prospects in a state they lost a long time ago.

The most recent addition to the That 70’s Show retread is state Senator Jason Carter, also the grandson of the former president Ronald Reagan vanquished in a landslide back in 1980, seeking to follow Jimmy Carter’s footsteps with a bid for governor, thus far running on the platform of not being his grandfather.

For Peach State Dems who’ve not won a statewide contest since 2006 and most recent non-incumbent winning in 1998 it amounts to a fleeting ray of light for revival.

Much like Michelle Nunn, their anointed choice for the state’s open Senate seat and daughter of Georgia lion Sam Nunn, the younger Carter has immediate access to a national fundraising network to boon the effort to unseat Republican Governor Nathan Deal.

That’s already playing out; he’s wheels up to DC next week for a funder with a cadre of Jimmy Carter alum.

The name recognition with Georgia’s populace accompanying the last name Carter offers both aid and peril. Unlike Nunn’s father, Jimmy Carter was defeated on the national stage and his legacy is about as out of sync with a Republican state as possible.

Personifying that red tenor is that every constitutional office is occupied by Republicans, as are 9 of 14 congressional seats, and the party holds majorities in both General Assembly branches.

Yet past meddlesome facts, Carter faces a hurdle separate of Nunn that could make for many awkward moments over the next year.

The partnership of a fellow Democrat, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, with Governor Deal is one that’s garnered national recognition for its effectiveness. A year ago The Economist profiled the pair, urging Washington to “take notice” and saying “anyone who wishes to see what successful bipartisanship looks like in action should look south, to Georgia.”

Months before Carter announced he would challenge Deal, Reed went further, saying the GOPer had “done a good job” whilst calling on Democrats to focus on Nunn’s race for Senate and avoid sinking remarkably finite resources into unseating the governor.

Following the swirl of rumors that Jimmy Carter’s grandson was eyeing 2014, the mayor dubbed him a “very special candidate” and the well-wishes passed along when it became official stopped short of a full-throated endorsement.

It reached an awkward crescendo less than a week ago and in a span of 24 hours.

Saturday saw Mayor Reed tweet out a picture of himself with NFL star Calvin Johnson and none other than Governor Deal on the sidelines of the double overtime classic between UGA and Georgia Tech.

Sunday Carter addressed 200 of the faithful at an Athens coffee shop, one of the few blue strongholds outside Atlanta, assailing virtually every move made by said governor since taking office in 2011.

The aftermath led to headlines centered on the muddled messaging, with onlookers (myself included) speculating it to be but taste of things to come. Meanwhile, according to Peach State site Zpolitics, Reed reportedly stated this week he intended to “support the party in the governor’s race,” weeks after the Carter-Nunn ticket was completed.

Yet for a newly re-elected mayor who’s also regarded a future contender for higher office, an amicable relationship with whomever occupies the Governor’s Mansion is a necessity when it comes to a second-term checklist before the next move.

One could speculate the mayor has made his political calculation, evidenced by something simple as a tweeted picture at a football game and marked willingness to publicize that relationship, even as Democrats coalesce behind a would-be ouster. That’s to say nothing of personal ideology; the mayor’s record in the General Assembly was the antithesis of centrist.

You could further argue, should Carter lose, the sooner than expected run endears him to the base and aids positing to Reed’s left, lest a primary slugfest be on the future’s horizon.

Speculation aside, it only enhances the Republican advantage in 2014, muddling Democrats’ message and complicating an already treacherous path to victory all the more.

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