So Cleland suffered for that vote in very much the same way other Democratic congressional candidates suffered in an election in which Republicans gained seats. Bush and the Republicans made the 2002 election—and the 2004 election, for that matter—all about national security and offered that homeland security vote as evidence that Democrats lacked what it took to protect the country.
None of this is to say that Chambliss has made no mistakes that could leave him vulnerable or that Georgia voters won't someday want to oust him, too. The freshman senator angered his constituents by voting against an expansion of a federal-state health insurance program for poor children and by suggesting that farmers needed migrant workers during harvest time when most Georgians wanted only to lock down the border.
Georgia Republicans booed Chambliss at one major gathering following those votes, and he had to spend months traveling the state to repair the fissures.
Chambliss's garnering a plurality of the vote on November 4 should have been proof enough that Georgia Democrats didn't feel the same way about him as the national Democrats did and do. It was only because he fell short of the 50 percent mark in the vote (he got 49.8 percent in an election that featured a record turnout of Democrats for Obama) that he even had to run again on Tuesday.
In that sense, the Tuesday runoff election was a waste of time and money for Democrats. Its ending was predictable because Georgia Democrats had already proved that they just didn't have enough hate in them.
Bob Kemper is a freelance political reporter and former Washington correspondent for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.