Do I expect Jim Martin to win tonight? No. Is that a huge deal? Not really. One more Democrat in the Senate is always a plus, and I'm pulling for Jim tonight, but the most important question being decided tonight is not who will be the next Senator from Georgia. The real question is: how will African-American voters turnout when Barack Obama's name is not on the ballot and, instead, they merely have the option of voting for a white Obama surrogate?
The answer to this question has huge implications for 2010 and for Obama's ability to pull the Reagan-esque feat of preserving his majority throughout his administration.
Granted, there are no exit polls tonight, so we won't have real numbers for these turnout levels. Here's a benchmark: if Black turnout tonight is at the 2006 level, Chambliss will win by 20 points (in November he won by 3 points). And it's not just that Obama is Black. Actually, Black turnout is at 2004 levels, Martin will lose by 8.5 points.
Blacks as a percentage of the GA electorate
2004 - 25%
2006 - 16%
2008 - 30%
Granted, Black voters are not the only voters who turned out in higher numbers this year, but this election won't give us any indication on how young voters will turnout in 2010. 18-29 year-olds have shrunk as a percentage of Georgia's voters from 2004-2006 and 2006-2008.