In search of black voters: Democrats point to Ferguson, GOP emphasizes lower prison rate

We now have a pretty clear picture of the messages Republicans and Democrats are sending to African-American voters in the last few days leading up to Nov. 4.

Many will take issue with the description of the HOPE scholarship, but it is the paragraph on justice reform that stands out. Listen:

A rough transcript:

“Our community voted overwhelmingly in favor of Governor Deal’s leadership-enhancing school choice. When the system threatened our students’ pursuit of the American dream, our governor took action.

“Our job prospects are better thanks to the expanded HOPE scholarship that now includes technical colleges. And Site magazine ranks Georgia as No. 1 for doing business.

“We rejoice as the governor’s justice reform efforts have led to a 20 percent reduction in black male incarceration. I’m Bishop William Sheals. Let’s faithfully vote for real Deal solutions on Nov. 4.”

As we reported earlier, Republicans also emphasized the reduction in imprisoned black males in the recent mailer above.

Georgia Democrats, as we first reported here two days ago, have been pointing to Ferguson, Mo., with its own mailer:

“It’s despicable,” said Gov. Nathan Deal.

“It is really regrettable that anyone would resort to scare tactics to try to get people to vote. Georgia is not Missouri. Georgia has elected more African-American leaders — mayors, county commissioners, et cetera — than any other state in the country. We have a long history of good race relations, and I cannot understand why the Democrat Party of Georgia would try to destroy it.”

There are other opinions. Dave Weigel at Bloomberg Politics links Georgia Democrats' Ferguson mailer with President Barack Obama's "these are all folks who vote with me" riff to Al Sharpton,. Writes Weigel:

The rawness of the appeals is shocking the people who aren't necessarily supposed to notice them. The messaging of 2012, which churned this electorate into a backlash at early voting cutbacks, was more effective than Republicans predicted. The Ferguson messaging and appeals from the president are being deployed because Democrats think they'll work.

The Ferguson mailer has even attracted the attention of editorialists at the New York Times, who disagreed with GOP cries that it attempts to stir racial antagonism:

The flyer…makes a very different point, and a good one that applies in virtually all of the major races this year. The white domination of the mostly black city of Ferguson is the direct result of local residents not participating in the political system. If people don’t like the results they’re getting from their political leaders — whether it’s the makeup of the police department in a suburb or the refusal to raise the minimum wage in Congress — they need to step up and make their voices heard….

This is hardly a grenade or racial pandering — in fact, it describes the essence of what political action is about. For too long, many of Georgia’s Democratic voters have stayed home during midterm and state legislative elections, and the cost of that inaction has been high.

Our AJC colleague Aaron Gould Sheinin reports of growing pushback from Democratics around the GOP outcry:

Speaking on MSNBC, state Sen. Vincent Fort, D-Atlanta, said conservative groups that have called the mail piece a “racial grenade” are the ones sensationalizing the situation.

"They need to take a deep breath,” Fort said. “The message in this flyer is as American as apple pie.”

The tasty pastry in this case, Fort said, is change will only be made by those who are engaged and those who vote.

“The message of voter participation is a very American message,” Fort said.

The strategy was not composed on the fly: During a Democratic National Committee meeting in Atlanta in August, party officials discussed the need to use Ferguson to inspire the base.

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Former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn makes his TV debut in his daughter Michelle's U.S. Senate bid with direct-to-camera testimony that she's someone who can work with both parties -- as he did.

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The Wall Street Journal takes a graphical look at why the "outsourcing" attacks on David Perdue might be effective, given the decline of manufacturing jobs in Georgia. From the piece:

Since 2004, the state has seen a decline in manufacturing jobs, from 450,000 to about 368,000 in August 2014, a drop of 82,000 or 18%. That’s slightly larger than the national decline in manufacturing employment, which has gone from 14.3 million to 12.1 million in that time, a drop of 15%.

And even with that drop Georgia is big in manufacturing, with more jobs in that sector than any surrounding state, including Florida.

All of which means talk about moving jobs to other countries carries a lot of weight in the state — and the pain has been spread around. From metro Atlanta to Dalton and Rome to the north and Albany and Augusta to the south, all have seen big drops in manufacturing employment.

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Roll Call has long ranked the top 50 wealthiest members of Congress. This year, it's ranking them all, so you can go here and sift through how much your favorite member is worth -- at minimum.

The Georgia delegation ranges from Sen. Johnny Isakson (worth a cool $8.93 million) to Reps. Rob Woodall, Lynn Westmoreland, Paul Broun, Sanford Bishop and Hank Johnson -- all of whom have more liabilities than assets, so they're in the negative range.

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