By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Bill Shipp How Sonny saves the South
Bill Shipp web
Bill Shipp
     I felt weak, sweaty and restless. My throat was sore. I coughed. The medication made me tense. I slept fitfully. When I finally dozed off, the phone rang.
    “Sonny Perdue wants to be considered for vice president,” said a familiar voice on the other end. “I haven’t steered you wrong before. You can put this in the bank. Sonny is looking at running on the national ticket.”
    I screamed for my wife. “Help me!” I yelled. “I’m having a nightmare!”
    At it turned out, I was wide awake, and my caller was stone sober. I phoned several other sources. Yes, they said, Sonny had hinted that he was available. One Republican even suggested that my nightmare could turn out to be a Republican dream ticket — Sen. John McCain for president, Sonny for vice president. My head began to throb.
    Then I sat upright. A McCain-Perdue partnership makes sense. So does a Mitt Romney-Perdue relationship.
    Perdue adds Southern balance to any GOP ticket. National poll numbers make it clear: A dogmatic, hard-line conservative Republican presidential candidate — one with overwhelming Southern appeal — will have a difficult time capturing the White House in 2008. National voters appear to be looking for moderation.
    Yet a Republican must hold the South to have any hope of winning the election.
    The old GOP Southern strategy, based upon anti-civil rights attitudes from the 1960s, may have turned into a stranglehold for the party. Southern-fried government, as administered by President George W. Bush and a docile Congress, has gone out of style in most of the nation, except the South.
    Harold Myerson of the Washington Post asserted last week in a column that Republicans have “become too Southern — too suffused with knee-jerk militaristic, anti-scientific, dogmatically religious and culturally, sexually and racially phobic attitudes of Dixie — to win friends and influence elections outside the South.”
    He may be right. National polls show that only the South believed the Bush administration was making the correct moves in the Iraq war. The region held that belief right up to the day that Bush “accepted Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation” as defense secretary. Only in the South do most voters believe that the nation is headed in the right direction.
    At this writing, Sen. McCain and Gov. Romney appear to represent the quality of the Republican presidential field, and the only frontline candidates with any possibility of capturing enough non-Southern votes to win.
    However, both McCain and Romney have serious obstacles to overcome in the Old Confederacy. Sen. McCain is a moderate on most social issues, and he lacks the tent-meeting wildness that many Southern voters admire in their candidates. Romney is Mormon. In the eyes (and on the Web sites) of some leading Southern evangelicals, Romney’s religious affiliation means that he is 1) a cult member, 2) not a Christian and 3) likely a devil worshiper. One other equally significant problem: Romney is from Massachusetts.
    So how do the McCain and Romney brain trusts surmount those seemingly killer challenges? Here’s how. Send for Super Sonny — the quintessential Southern political symbol — a hawkish, anti-Darwinist, evangelical zealot — the kind of guy who could balance a Republican ticket and keep the South in the fold. Perdue is Dick Cheney with grits; he even looks like Cheney.
    In addition, as a running mate for McCain, Perdue as a governor helps keep hope alive for the state’s rights crowd. To help Romney, Perdue’s presence mitigates ingrained Southern ill feeling toward New Englanders. Several Perdue stalwarts, led by fund-raising wizard Eric Tannenblatt, have already signed on with Romney. Just how Perdue explains to his hard-shell Baptist brethren his alliance with a Mormon is uncertain. McCain is a friend of Georgia GOP Chairman Alec Poitevint.
    Perdue, of courses, also faces a few hurdles himself. Oaky Woods, the Disney World land deal and his tax returns are certain to raise flags in any vetting for vice president.
    In any event, the presidential action in the South is likely to focus on Republicans, unless could-be candidates John Edwards or Al Gore is willing to spend time and lots and lots of money on trying to recapture the region for Democrats.
    My guess at this very early date: No matter what the other Democrats may do, Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois will win the Georgia Democratic presidential primary in March 2008. If Obama winds up on the Democratic presidential ticket, the GOP may not need Sonny after all. The South and the Republicans will remain wed, without possibility of divorce. They will stay together because neither has any place else to go.

    You can reach Bill Shipp at P.O. Box 440755, Kennesaw, GA  30160; or e-mail:
Sign up for the Herald's free e-newsletter