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Why Is Dem Nunn Touting Endorsement From Zell Miller?

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AP Photo / JOE CAVARETTA

Miller supported segregationist candidates early in his career and then became a mainstream post-civil rights southern Democrat — before veering right during the Bush era, going on to serve as a co-chairman of Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign.

The endorsement is something of a coup for the Nunn campaign and meant to hype up her bipartisan credentials (and, more urgently, repel attacks from the National Republican Senatorial Committee that she would be President Barack "Obama's senator").

The last time Miller ventured into racial politics was in 1992, when he said he would introduce legislation to remove aspects of the Georgia flag that resembled the Confederate flag.

Democrats, in announcing Miller's endorsement, are eager to call attention to the fact that the former senator endorsed three Republican presidential nominees.

The video where Miller (pictured) endorses Nunn is all about bipartisanship. Miller first recalls the bipartisan effort to pass "the HOPE scholarship" and then goes into a small criticism of partisanship in Washington D.C.

"But I'm so angry about what's going on in Washington, partisanship over patriotism. They can't stop themselves," Miller continues in the video. "But we can stop them! Let's send Michelle Nunn to the Senate. She's a bridge builder, not a bridge burner."

The question though is how Nunn will handle carrying the endorsement while also trying to get a constituency she needs to win the Senate seat: African-Americans.

In July, leaked documents from the early days of Nunn's campaign laid out her strategy for prioritizing key constituencies in Georgia. The documents stressed that she wanted to avoid coming off as "too liberal" and that it would be important to increase turnout among Latinos and African-Americans in Georgia while also looking to win a chunk (but not an overwhelming amount) of white voters in the race. The documents said that African-Americans are a "critical" constituency for Nunn in the race.

The current TPM Polltracker average has Nunn trailing Perdue in the Republican-leaning Georgia by 9.4 percentage points. Nunn needs to attract not just staunch Democrats in the state but also some Republicans and crossover voters.

So far, at least, Nunn seemed unfazed by these potentially conflicting goals.

"I am so honored to have Governor Miller's support, counsel, and endorsement," Nunn said in a statement in response to the endorsement. "As I have travelled the state, I have met so many who praise the governor for the HOPE Scholarship and his independent spirit. It means so much to me, personally, that this Georgia icon recognizes my commitment to be a bridge-builder and a problem-solver in Washington."

This post has been edited.

About The Author

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Daniel Strauss is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. He was previously a breaking news reporter for The Hill newspaper and has written for Politico, Roll Call, The American Prospect, and Gaper's Block. He has also interned at Democracy: A Journal of Ideas and The New Yorker. Daniel grew up in Chicago and graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.A. in History. At Michigan he helped edit Consider, a weekly opinion magazine. He can be reached at daniel@talkingpointsmemo.com.