Two prominent Georgia Democrats, former Gov. Roy Barnes and ex-U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn, quietly donated to Johnny Isakson's Senate campaign in recent months, spurning their party's candidate in favor of the longtime Republican lawmaker.
Federal campaign finance filings show Barnes and his wife both donated the maximum $2,700 to Isakson's campaign committee earlier this summer. Nunn, meanwhile, sent $500 Isakson's way back in May.
The news is a blow to Democrat Jim Barksdale, a political newcomer who's looking to build momentum and name recognition against Isakson, who's seeking a third term in the U.S. Senate.
A recent Survey USA-WXIA poll of 570 likely voters had Barksdale 9 percentage points below Isakson, and a Landmark/Rosetta Stone poll from WSB had Barksale within 5 percentage points of the incumbent.
Barnes and Isakson have been two dominant forces in Cobb County politics since the 1980s. The former governor, who launched a comeback bid in 2010, likely gave Democrats some heartburn last year as the party searched for an Isakson challenger when he said "if all Republicans were like Johnny, I would be a Republican.”
Barnes had this to say in a brief interview this afternoon:
“Johnny and Dianne have been friends of ours since we were young and served in the General Assembly together. I am a Democrat and I have nothing ill to say about his opponent, but Johnny is our friend.”
Nunn said Isakson "is an effective public servant and has been my friend for many years."
By our count, Barnes and Nunn represent the second and third prominent Georgia Democrats to bolster Isakson. U.S. Rep. David Scott of Atlanta told WXIA earlier today that he plans to vote for Isakson, his "friend" and "partner," in November.
Barksdale Campaign Manager Dave Hoffman said recent polling has Republicans "scrambling" to attack his candidate:
"Multiple polls this week show that Georgia’s U.S. Senate race is at single digits and it’s no surprise Republicans are scrambling in order to address the strength of Jim Barksdale’s outsider candidacy. As Senator Isakson said last week, it doesn’t matter what size check one writes, it’s about working to earn the job for the next six years – a job that Senator Isakson has refused to do considering his silence at 71% of his Senate Commerce Committee hearings."
The WXIA poll estimated that 5 percent of Democratic voters would back Isakson if the election were held that day, while 8 percent of voters who identified as Republicans would back Barksdale.
Our scan of campaign finance filings also found another interesting Isakson donation: $500 from Cass Sunstein, the legal scholar who spent three years in the Obama White House and is married to United Nations ambassador Samantha Power.
Greg Bluestein contributed to this report.