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The South back in play
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The South may be about to rise again. Republicans can't take the region for granted any longer. To keep Georgia in the GOP fold, the Republican presidential campaign will have to spend money in the Peach State for the first time since 1996.

We can thank Barack Obama for making us important again. Notice I did not say he is likely to win the state. But Obama is going to make it tough for Republican John McCain to capture Georgia and Mississippi.

Here's why:

• Obama will have plenty of campaign money, enough to mount substantial campaigns in more states than McCain. Democrats can pour cash into Georgia and Mississippi to help Obama and Senate and House candidates.

• The African-American voter bloc has been energized as never before. In the past, blacks have constituted no more than 25 percent of the total Georgia vote. Number crunchers expect that figure to exceed 30 percent this year. In Mississippi, blacks may account for 40 percent of the total vote. That means Obama could win Georgia and Mississippi carrying only a minority of white voters. Mississippi has the largest percentage of voting-age blacks in the nation with Georgia not far behind.

The Obama thrust in the South forces McCain to divert money from key Midwestern and Eastern states to hold onto the elephants' solid South.

Oh, yes, did we mention Bob Barr? If the Libertarian presidential candidate could win 10 percent of the Georgia vote, he would become the Ross Perot of 2008. In 1992 Independent candidate Ross Perot won enough votes in Georgia and other states to deny a second term to Republican George H. W. Bush. Bill Clinton won the White House.

A nationally known consultant explains the anticipated Democratic scenario of 2008 like this:

"In a sense the storyline is akin to the classic World War II adventure 'The Great Escape,' in which scores of Allied POWs planned and implemented an elaborate escape. Their missions were to keep throngs of Germans tied up chasing escapees all over Europe as well as to set free as many POWs as possible. The diversionary tactic worked. Thousands of Germans were taken off the frontlines to find Allied runaways." However, only three of the 76 escapees finally made it to safety. So the metaphor doesn't quite work out unless one is willing to paint Obama as the sacrificial lamb who brought the Democratic donkey back to life but didn't survive himself.

Republican talking heads spend much of their time deriding Democrats for their fragmented party. Have you checked out the Republicans lately? McCain is getting trashed regularly from the right wing. His going to New Orleans and highlighting the Katrina disaster plus global warming did not exactly endear him to white conservatives.

Some Republican activists are talking quietly about the need of a GOP blowout defeat, a la Goldwater in 1964, to regroup the party and bring it back stronger than ever.

The economy is messed up. Gas prices keep climbing. Real estate is in disaster mode in much of the country. President George Bush's popularity is at a record low. Republicans concede that their party will suffer losses in the House and Senate. Such dismal talk may not translate into more votes for Obama, but it may signal lower turnout among dispirited white Republicans.

The country is embroiled in so many problems, and the GOP is so messed up - I am not certain that a majority of rational voters will support McCain and turn their back on Obama. But then, rationality may have nothing to do with it.

In any event, if you thought the Democratic primaries were bruising affairs, just wait for the general election campaigns. American politics is always a nasty affair. You may be about to witness a new record for nasty.

You can reach Bill Shipp at P.O. Box 2520, Kennesaw, GA 30156, e-mail:, or Web address: