MACON, Ga. — Rep. Jim Marshall is no stranger to tough elections. The Democrat has already won two with just 51 percent of the vote.
So perhaps the calm demeanor that he exuded last week just hours before a crucial debate with his Republican challenger, state Rep. Austin Scott, wasn’t an act.
As the Scott camp was busy prepping for the evening’s showdown, Marshall seemed content to shoot pool in his campaign office and talk about the old Volkswagen Beetles that he restored in his younger days.
The interview took place less than a day after Marshall performed something of a campaign overhaul by announcing he would not support Rep. Nancy Pelosi for another term as Speaker.
Despite voting for her twice before, Marshall said he never thought the California Democrat was the right person to lead the party in the House.
Marshall supporters say the move is an example of the Congressman’s ability to be an independent voice for his conservative central Georgia district, but it’s not hard to read the move as a sign that Republican attempts to tie the two Democrats together were working.
Marshall said he thinks he has neutralized the Pelosi attacks by clarifying where he stands on the Speaker.
But try to tell that to the Scott supporters who showed up to last week’s debate with signs that read, “Marshall = Pelosi, Nuff said.”
Eva Cogar, who works as a nurse in Warner Robins, carried one of those signs. She said Marshall’s tough new stance on Pelosi is little more than a deathbed conversion by a Congressman who has found himself trailing in the polls.
“He’s said everything except, ‘If you re-elect me, I’ll be a Republican,’” Cogar said. “And if he thought that would get him elected, I think he’d say that, too.”
Perennial Tough Target
Ever since he won his 2002 race by about 1,500 votes, Marshall has been something of a white whale for Republicans.
After the former Macon mayor and law school professor cruised to victory in a 2004 rematch of the previous race, Republicans targeted Marshall in a rare mid-decade redistricting effort that made his district even more hospitable for the GOP in 2006. But the effort didn’t pay off. Marshall went on to win by about 1,800 votes in a year that saw a national Democratic wave sweep Republicans out of power in the House and Senate.
Last cycle, Republicans enticed highly touted retired Air Force Gen. Rick Goddard to take on Marshall. But the Congressman was buoyed by another strong national environment for Democrats and won comfortably as national Republicans were too busy playing defense elsewhere to target the district.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.