Soy beans replacing peanuts in Georgia?

Cue collective sighs from the peanut gallery, if you see what I’m saying.

Moving forward, a new report from Georgia Public Broadcasting drops the nutcracker on Georgia’s iconic crop. (Ok, I’ll stop now.)

On a serious note, the report shows that spiking prices may well lead to soy beans making inroads on Georgia’s agricultural power house. Peanuts have long been at the top of the proverbial food chain, particularly in Southwest gnat-ridden terrain, and backed by cotton and corn.

But, as this report notes, the soy-ridden Midwest has experienced a heavy drought this year, leading to a cost hike for the product while China continues its march towards a soy monopoly. A ‘soypoly,’ if you will.

As such, the speculation is that Georgia farmers may Carpe  Diem on more appealing soy prices, leading to an increased amount of soy harvesting in Georgia.

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Charlie Crist and constituencies of one

Throughout the annals of recent Florida political history, a number of notable figures come to mind.

Jeb Bush: Two-term governor who successfully spearheaded meaningful education reform in the state. In many ways, the brother of W. is a forefather to the recent stream of governors, elected in the last 4 years, who have dared do what they say and implement meaningful, positive reform. Through it all, he has maintained a consistent conservatism while offering ideas, and differences with the Republican norm, in a pragmatic fashion that has kept him in high standing, despite a last name that some still regard as toxic. (Full disclosure: I don’t.)

Marco Rubio: Proverbial rockstar of the GOP who defeated this post’s primary topic just two short years ago. An undeniably bright future lies ahead for this freshman Senator.

Rick Scott: Elected governor, also in 2010, Scott’s approval ratings aren’t the best but here again is a governor who has dared act on the platform he ran on. Such efforts have helped spearhead Florida to being named the second best place to do business in the nation. Heck, he recently beat Texas Governor Rick Perry (coincidentally, best state to do business in 8 years running) in a deep sea fishing contest.

Then there’s Charlie Crist.

Among the annals of Florida political history, Crist is definitely the role model of “how to be a political opportunist in the most obvious fashion”. You thought 2010 was his magnum opus, but the last couple of days have ensured that there will truly be no political mind quite like this one in Florida history, at least we should hope not.

Crist is a former Republican governor of the Sunshine State. Now a registered Independent, this weekend brought news that he was officially endorsing the re-election bid of President Obama and this morning revealed that he will, in fact, be speaking at the Democratic National Convention. Yippie.

Let’s recap. To say that this fella’s sheer opportunism is not obvious, and without limits, is an understatement. For starters, some poetic words spoken two years ago by then-Republican Governor and Senate candidate, Charlie Crist:

Crist says if Obamacare passes, it would be  “devastating” for Florida. “I’m concerned about them trying to ram this  through.”

Does his position on the bill differ from Marco  Rubio, his GOP Senate primary opponent? No, he says. “I don’t think  there are any differences.”

As many of you know, Marco Rubio is a staunch advocate for the repeal of President Obama’s legislative signature. That was in March. Just months later, in July specifically, Crist had this to say about the same issue. Note that by this point he had switched to running for Senate as an Independent:

Mr. Crist has made other policy shifts. Despite pledging as a Republican to help repeal President Obama’s health-care overhaul, Mr. Crist now says he does not support such a move.

“It should be modified,” [Crist says,] a stance short of repeal.

Of course, here the entire reason for Crist’s party-switch should be noted. Because of various factors, all political, it was increasingly clear that Florida’s governor was going to get beaten, and not even by a close margin, by the upstart Marco Rubio. Sensing that he would stand a better chance of victory running a three-way general race, Crist said to hell with it and dropped out of the Republican primary. Not content with simply running under an Independent mantle, Crist subsequently rescinded support of conservative measures (like repealing ‘Obamacare’) and proved so many of his critics right all along.

By the way, he lost.

Now, he’s set to go full circle, speaking at what used to be the opposing party’s convention this year. Democrats will herald this as symbolic revenge for Zell Miller and Joe Lieberman speaking at the past two GOP confabs, not to mention Artur Davis this year. But there’s a clear difference.

Miller and Lieberman each addressed Republicans on the basis of principle, not ambition. Miller dominated politics in the very state I’m typing from for years, I would know. Heck, in his 1992 Democratic National Convention speech, he derided “liberals” determined to keep Americans on welfare. Yes, that term was used in a negative way by a then-Democrat Governor at the DNC.

He was in the middle of his final term in the Senate and it was clear that Lieberman’s day in the political spotlight had already passed. Each addressed Republicans due to major policy differences with their party’s nominee. Lieberman now retires as an Independent himself and, as for Artur Davis, track his voting record in Congress and you’ll see that his party left him.

Now Crist is a different matter. It’s widely assumed that he’s ramping up to run again for governor in two short years, this time as a Democrat. The only thing to speculate on is how far his personal ambition will let him drive to the Left for such a speech.

What’s truly terrifying about the entire matter is that barely over three years ago Crist was considered a prospective frontrunner for the Republican nomination in 2012.

Utter opportunism at its finest is on display here.

Good riddance that he’s gone over to the opposite side of the aisle.

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The show must go on

And it will, and as much of a whirlwind as ever. No pun directed at those gathered in Tampa for the GOP Convention intended.

I don’t update this thing half as much as I would like, but my hope is that this week will provide me time to do so. The primary obstacle will likely center around my own writer’s block and life outside of this website, which I tend to think is much healthier. At any rate, this week may well prove the last full measure at an attempt to update this with some measure of consistency. Though I wish otherwise, I am not in Tampa.

But the show must go on.

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The potential fallout facing John Barge

For those of you who are unaware, yesterday Georgia state School Superintendent John Barge voiced opposition to a proposed amendment to Georgia’s constitution. Set to be voted on in November, it would place that powers of authorizing and funding charter schools statewide into the hands of the state.

SHOT: It’s backed by the bulk of Republican leadership. Namely: Governor Nathan Deal, House Speaker David Ralston and a range of lawmakers from across the committee spectrum.

CHASER: Barge is now the sole high level Republican pol on record opposing the amendment.

In other words, there will be political ramifications. Of what sort? I have damn near as much of an idea as you do and that’s why I’m going to speculate.

Let’s establish a bit about Barge here. I’ve previously praised his approach towards reforming, and adequately evaluating, Georgia’s public school system. I think he’s taken an innovative approach in more than a few areas while doing a good job putting oft-overplayed stereotypes about the quality of our education system to bed. As much as a state’s School Superintendent can do at least.

But I’m not writing this to address the policy question of charter schools, per say. I’m talking about the impact of this move on Barge’s political career.

With that, the first thing to note is that Barge is not necessarily what one would dub a “strong” statewide candidate. Put bluntly: his fundraising capacity, to date, has been no word remotely resembling strong.

Barge raised roughly $111,000 during the entirety of the 2010 campaign (his first bid for public office to my knowledge). In a weak field, both primary and general election-wise, that was fine and dandy. Last month’s disclosure (dated June 30th) had him sitting not-so pretty with a meager $31,000 cash on hand. No matter how you slice it, that’s not a strong number for a constitutional position with statewide reach in Georgia.

More than once I’ve heard Barge dubbed the “accidental superintendent”. Point being, bucking the bulk of your party’s leadership on an issue that is dear to Republicans, activist or not, is not the smartest course to chart when it comes to ensuring that your campaign coffers are flushed come re-election.

Of course, 2014 will, in all likelihood, not bring serious competition to statewide GOP’ers from Democrats. Thus, the issue Barge may now face is a serious primary challenger. Put up against a credible candidate with serious financial backing, something the one-termer has not faced before, then you could see serious trouble. Further, given the geography of support for the charter schools amendment, I wouldn’t expect suburban parents in metro-Atlanta to think too kindly towards re-electing someone who opposed this amendment.

However, Barge’s decision is likely to earn him support from local school board members, regardless of party. My gut instinct and personal conversations make me think this will come from particularly rural areas.

So, the question that remains is whether or not such increased support from local school board members would be enough to propel him over a well-funded primary challenger who falls more in lockstep with the base on an issue that was a critical component of last session’s agenda.

That question  is, of course, contingent on whether or not a primary challenger emerges. But hey, it’s never too early to speculate.

Either way, I can’t say it wasn’t a gutsy move by Barge.

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Jeb Bush tweaks Alan Grayson

Ok, ok. So I’m 4 days late even picking up on this topic from the Sunshine State. Don’t care. Bashing Alan Grayson is too much fun, regardless of how late to the scene one may be.

Anyways, in what appears to be a practice on the rise this election cycle, Grayson has essentially injected himself into the primary for an open House seat around Orlando. Essentially, the district is tilted towards Democrats (who else would take Grayson seriously?), but this liberal firebrand just can’t leave well enough alone.

Color me shocked.

At any rate, Grayson has blanketed potential GOP primary voters in the district with mailers of his own. The purpose? Targeting one of his potential opponents: John Quinones. The reason? Quinones is Puerto-Rican and the district has a high population of Puerto Ricans. According to the report in which I discovered this idiocy, Grayson has poured $100,000 into the GOP primary, through the standard outlets, in an attempt to brand Quinones a false Republican.

One of said attacks included asserting that his potential challenger was off the mark with still popular former Governor Jeb Bush on tax policy. Lucky for this site’s content, and Florida Republicans, Bush took Grayson to task with a statement:

“I find it in utterly poor taste that Alan Grayson would use my statements, misquoted and out of context, for political gain. I encourage Mr. Grayson to take down his ads, stay out of the Republican primary and let the voters of Central Florida to choose their nominee without his help. There will be plenty of time for Mr. Grayson to defend his liberal tax-and-spend record in the fall.”

Heh. Well done, Governor. Mind you, I know absolutely nothing about the makeup of the Republican field in this race. But who would pass up an excuse to post about bashing Alan Grayson?

-Brandon

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Counting Perry out is a Texas-sized mistake

With thirteen days having past since the Texas Senate GOP runoff, a confab of media outlets have emerged with stories surrounding Governor Rick Perry. Not Ted Cruz. Not David Dewhurst. Rick Perry.

Though they may disagree over how serious of a blow Dewhurst’s loss may or may not have been to Perry’s political capital in the Lone Star State, they all are at a consensus that Perry is down. Whether or not he is out, they say, will be decided in the next two years.

But this conscientious observer is inclined to disagree.

I put little stock in the assertion that Perry sticking his neck out for Dewhurst, followed by Dewhurst losing by a wide margin, as proof that Texas Republicans have grown tired of the longest-serving Governor in America. I also tend to put little stock in the thought that we politicos so often enjoy entertaining: that an endorsement truly carries game-changing weight. But, for argument’s sake, let’s start out with that one.

When examining Perry’s wholesale endorsement scorecard with Texas Republicans, it’s difficult to assert that he has somehow lost his sway. In total, Perry has weighed in on 23 Texas elections this year, with a record of 16 victories and 7 losses. Of those second-hand wins, 14 came without runoffs, and he fared 2-2 on Tuesday’s second round of elections.

That’s a 69.5% success rate for recipients of Perry endorsements at surface level.

Naturally, that goes without taking into account individual campaigns and issues that arose internal and external. But hey, I’m just talking on the same level of those saying that Dewhurst’s defeat marks further downward spiraling for Perry’s political future.

Not to mention that Perry endorsed Rudy Giuliani in 2008. Did that somehow prevent him from becoming one of the first forbearers of Tea Party Republicanism in the first place? But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Since folding his ill-fated presidential run in January, the most forward re-assertion of Perry’s clout in Texas politics lies not with Dewhurst’s campaign or other endorsements, but the Texas Budget Compact. Yes, that same Compact that Erick Erickson (a strong Cruz backer) dubbed a signal that Perry “has served notice that he continues to be the lead conservative voice in Texas and plans to govern that way”.

To boot, it’s been signed by quite a few incumbent, and prospective, Texas lawmakers, serving notice that ‘centrist-thinking Republicans should bear that mind’.

The Compact has served as Perry’s re-entry into the field of Texas policy making, a field which even his harshest critics acknowledge he has mastered. In last year’s bi-annual legislative roundup, Texas Monthly (mind you, no fan of Perry’s), served him with the session’s ‘Leadership’ award and stated that he “has mastered this game like no governor before him”.

So, when it comes to influencing the legislative agenda, how can anyone reasonably argue that Perry’s clout has been diminished in the last year? The legislature hasn’t even met.

Of course, the issue people will place above the survival of legislative influence is whether or not the Governor still has the ability to fire up the conservative movement in Texas. Throughout Perry’s presidential run, the one that was never in dispute is his talent as a retail politician. There are none better; I can attest from firsthand experience.

But don’t take my word for it. Look no further than the aptly titled “Gov. Rick Perry-the reports of his political death are greatly exaggerated”:

“Sure, the hair is a bit grayer and the lines on his face a bit deeper, but make no mistake, Rick Perry remains a formidable politician. I’d hate to be the guy that decided to spend $20 million to go up against him in 2014…Sure, the naysayers will continue to hit him, and I’m sure I will as well, but never, ever underestimate his ability to connect with people. Or win elections, his presidential quest notwithstanding.”

Oh, and by the way, the candidate Perry was endorsing at that particular event, he won.

I suppose it’s also a moot point to note that if one thing was proven on the presidential campaign trail, Perry knows how to fill his campaign coffers. Yes, I know that money doesn’t buy elections, but when you pair a keen ability to personally collect with ‘Sam’s Club Republicans’ with fundraising prowess, you have a potential re-election bid, in a state which has vetted him ten times over, that cannot be taken lightly.

Indulging in the exercise of reminding the flacks and hacks who now decry Perry of why they found him so fascinating in the first place is one of necessity. How easily people forget that this is a man who has never lost an election in Texas and, only a year ago, checked off practically every item on his legislative agenda.

National pundits may count themselves as ringing the bells on a fallen Tea Party idol’s electoral deathbed, but if there’s one thing Rick Perry knows, it’s Texas.

And whether 2013 marks the beginning of his final legislative session as Governor, or the kickoff to the quest for a fourth full-term, one thing is clear: dismissing Rick Perry is a Texas-sized mistake.

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Missed opportunities abound in GA-12 primary?

Maria Shefffield may have missed her moment.

Recently surfaced reports indicate that the congressional hopeful, vying with three others for a shot at incumbent John Barrow, now has a video tracker following her through crowds, forums and rallies across the 12th district campaign circuit. The culprit? Fellow Republican Wright McLeod, whose fundraising prowess has placed him atop the frontrunner’s pedestal. The instance serves as the first publicly noted tracker of the race, which has grown noticeably more heated, no doubt due to the July 31st drawing nearer.

Sheffield’s response? Accusing the McLeod campaign of “stalking”, demanding the tracker pack his bag for other trails (while leaving a signed apology) and decrying the tactic as one solely used by Democrats.

Typically the sight of an extra video camera in your audience should be viewed as a welcome occurrence. Trackers are a sign that an opposing campaign has begun, if only for a moment, to take you seriously as a contender. For Sheffield, the moment presented itself to gain some much needed traction in a race featuring three candidates better established within the rural Georgia district.

Though she has maintained a vigorous online presence, Sheffield has raised only $14,000 in contributions, with her remaining $100,000 being self-financed (as of March 31st). She has family roots in the district, but moved from metro-Atlanta to Laurens County’s Dexter at the onset of the campaign; so should she gain traction, the term carpetbagger is one that may be passed under whispered breath.

In other words, now was the time to proclaim with a new vigor that she is a force to be reckoned with in the battle to replace John Barrow, a Democrat already targeted with just shy of a million in outside spending this fall. On paper, she should be the last candidate that McLeod would have followed, which means that internal polling is saying something we don’t know, or that the political calculus of the Augusta lawyer’s campaign should be called into serious question.

However, instead of headlines simultaneously boosting Sheffield’s credibility while asking for answers from McLeod, we have been treated to analysis and rebuke of her claims. The “stalking” allegation is one that can be perceived as playing the victim, a weak card in rural Georgia. Furthermore, calling the tactic one only used be Democrats has been pointed out as factually inaccurate by practically every publication covering the story. For instance, in 2010 the Republican Governor’s Association filmed every single move Roy Barnes made.

The error in handling the story is further shown in the indication that other campaigns bear no intentions of following McLeod’s opposition research lead. In a reply to the Georgia Tipsheet Joel McElhannon, strategist for state Rep. Lee Anderson, derided Sheffield as a “fourth-place contender” while subsequently barbing McLeod as a “pathological liar, not a stalker”.

McElhannon’s statements on McLeod serve to bring full circle the missed moment for Sheffield’s campaign. As a full disclosure, I have no personal horse in this race; my only concern is beating John Barrow. But it has been a tricky two months for Wright McLeod and, with the vetting process in full swing, his response has been lacking. Be it his claim of voting for Bill Richardson in the 2008 DEMOCRATIC Presidential Primary when no Richardson votes were recorded in his precinct, to his donations to Democrat Rob Telheit’s campaign for Attorney General in 2010, he has lacked sufficient substance to debunk allegations of false conservatism. Questioning McLeod’s ideology is not necessarily my point, but his campaign’s ability to respond to the hammer that John Barrow’s millions will drop on an eventual opponent is significant reason to raise doubts.

Thus, instead of turning McLeod’s tracker into a continued focus on his unraveling as frontrunner, onlookers are gazing at the word “stalking” and tactics clearly used by Republicans and Democrats alike.

A missed moment indeed.

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