Editor's Note: In the final 100 days before Election Day, CNN has been profiling one race at random each day from among the nation's top 100 House races, which we've dubbed "The CNN 100." Read the full list here. Today's featured district is:
Georgia 8th – Rep. Jim Marshall (D) is seeking a 5th term
Primary: July 20, 2010; Runoff: August 10, 2010
Location: Central Georgia
Days until Election Day: 88
As a Democrat representing a heavily Republican district in the heart of Georgia, Rep. Jim Marshall makes for a tempting target, especially in a midterm year when sizable GOP gains are expected. But this isn't Marshall's first time in the line of fire, and he has answered previous challenges by either narrowly edging out his opponent or winning with decisive, double-digit margins.
In his four previous successful bids for this seat, Marshall has performed much better in presidential years than in midterm years. Turnout is higher in presidential years, especially among black voters, who make up 33 percent of the population in the 8th district and tend to vote Democratic. Marshall sailed to re-election in 2004 with 63 percent of the vote and in 2008 with 57 percent. In 2002, he narrowly edged his GOP opponent, 50.5 percent to 49.5 percent. In 2006, when Democrats did not lose a single seat nationwide, Marshall was held to 51 percent by former GOP Rep. Mac Collins.
In office, Marshall has amassed the kind of voting record a Democrat would need in order to stay competitive in a Republican district like the 8th. He voted against both the Democratic Senate and House versions of health care reform and the "cap and trade" energy plan, both of which were priorities of the White House and Democratic leadership. According to Congressional Quarterly, in 2009 Marshall bucked the White House and a majority of his party on key votes more than almost all of his Democratic colleagues. He did support the party position on some major initiatives, such as the Obama-backed stimulus plan and the Wall Street reform legislation signed into law last month.
The Republican nominee is state Rep. Austin Scott, who was first elected to the Georgia State Assembly in 1996. An insurance agent by trade, Scott has emphasized his support for conservative economic principles and policies, including limited government, an overhaul of the federal tax system, and a balanced budget amendment. He supports repealing the Democrat-backed health care reform law and has criticized Marshall for his vote in favor of the economic stimulus package.
At the half-year mark, Marshall had $985,000 in his campaign account, while Scott had $213,000. Scott outraised Marshall in contributions from April through June, $195,000 to $163,000, and also kicked in $56,000 in personal funds.
Georgia's 8th district is located in the center of the state, stretching from the Atlanta area on the North almost to the Florida border on the South. The district's best-known city is Macon, where Marshall previously served as mayor. Only three counties in the 8th went for Obama in 2008, but there are large population centers in two of them - Bibb County, where Macon is located, and some of the suburban Atlanta areas in Newton County. McCain carried the district with 56 percent in 2008, a larger share of the vote than the 52 percent he received statewide. Not surprisingly, Marshall's 57 percent victory here that year far outperformed Obama's 43 percent in the district.
While Marshall is not on the top of the list of endangered incumbents, the demographics of the district make it a naturally challenging environment for any Democrat, even one coming off of a decisive victory just two years ago. Scott has also shown fundraising strength that would be needed to make this race competitive. Marshall has managed to win in the past against very tough candidates, but like the stock market, past performance in Georgia's 8th is not necessarily an indicator of future earnings, especially in a volatile political year like 2010.