While most coverage of the Chambliss-Martin runoff has focused on the fact that Democrats will not get a filibuster-proof majority, there's a deeper story here. On Election Day, Saxby Chambliss beat Jim Martin by only 3%. Just four weeks later, Chambliss won the runoff by over 15%. What the heck happened to Georgia voters?
Obviously Obama wasn't on the ballot, and many Democrats who turned out on Election Day for Obama were not highly motivated to vote again for Martin, a decent but uncharismatic candidate.
But Republican turnout was strong. Why were they so motivated? Chambliss's allies said he would stop Obama's "radical agenda." It appears this message resonated strongly with Georgia Republicans.
So here's a simple question: Will Southern Republicans accept Barack Obama as their president, or will they organize a political (but not military) rebellion against him?
It doesn't matter to them that Obama has bent over backwards to embrace Republicans, including keeping Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense, arguably the most powerful position in the cabinet. All of Obama's other appointments have been centrists who have won wide praise from Republicans. Just yesterday, Obama told Republican governors he would treat them exactly as he treats Democrats.
But you can't have a rebellion without a leader. Who would lead Southern Republicans?
The Republican National Committee can't lead the Rebs because it's desperately trying to hold on to non-southern seats. Sarah Palin would love the job, but she's as far from the South as you can get. Mike Huckabee is local, but too jovial. Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina was the leading critic of Obama at the National Governors Association, but South Carolina and Sanford are too conspicuously "red" to be credible. So who else is available?
Enter Jeb Bush.
Just this weekend, Jeb said Republicans need to form a "shadow government." While "shadow government" is a familiar term in parliamentary systems, it's unheard of here in the U.S. And it runs completely contrary to our system of having "one President at a time." Can you imagine the screams from Republicans and the Washington Establishment if Al Gore had formed a "shadow government" in 2000 after George Bush stole the White House from him?
It looks like Jeb's words were not merely hypothetical. Two days after his "shadow government" idea was published, Florida Sen. Mel Martinez -- a close ally of Jeb -- announced he would not run for re-election in 2010. His announcement was preceded by reports he would resign before the end of his term.
A Martinez resignation would allow Gov. Charlie Crist -- another close ally of Jeb -- to appoint Jeb as the replacement Senator. In his statement, Martinez said he "expected" to complete his term -- hardly a firm promise. And Politico reports, "[Jeb] retains a strong following among Florida Republicans and would almost certainly clear the Republican field should he decide to run."
So is Jeb Bush planning to lead a Southern Republican political rebellion against President Obama? Stay tuned. And if you don't want Gov. Crist to appoint Jeb as Senator, sign our petition.