So a disappointing result last night, but not an unexpected one. Not a single poll showed Martin leading in the runoff, and when the early voting numbers showed African American turnout way down, well, the writing was on the wall.
Of course, while a Martin victory would've been the upset of the decade, Chambliss hanging on is now a stunning repudiation of Obama, or other such silliness. Yet it's about as significant as Mary Landrieu hanging on in a Louisiana runoff in 2002 while Republicans engaged in "Operation Icing on the Cake" (after
knocking off Democratic Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle and taking over the Senate). Well, the GOP didn't get their icing on the cake, but 2004 was a good enough consolation prize.
Nate Silver thinks Chambliss' victory may point a way forward for the GOP, but special elections are funny beasts, and it's not worth reading too much into them. Remember when winning tough early-2004 special elections in South Dakota (Stephanie Herseth) and Kentucky (Ben Chandler) meant things were looking up for us for November 2004? Remember how the GOP's strong performance in the Massachusetts 5th 2007 special election meant they were bouncing back from their 2006 drubbing?
What yesterday's election definitely taught us is something we already knew -- that Democrats generally perform better the higher the turnout. Too many of our core constituencies are low performing ones -- racial and ethnic minorities and young voters. Obama got them out, and made Georgia close. Martin did not, and he got blown away in what is still a Red state.
Throw in the fact that Democrats acted like the mission had been accomplished (Obama couldn't be bothered to lend too much of a hand), and there was little reason for his supporters to put in a similar effort. It may have been smart politics for Obama, since it's hard to see how he could've helped close that much of a gap anyhow, but the example is set at the top. If Obama acts like a race isn't worth his time, then neither will his supporters.