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Interview with Brian Robinson, August 23, 2017

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:33 - Introduction to politics

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Partial Transcript: If you don't mind, give us the thirty-second, one-minute biography of Brian Robinson.

Segment Synopsis: Robinson tells of his career in journalism, and how it transformed into a career in politics. Robinson then talks about how his upbringing and education affected his affinity for the Republican party, citing his parents' voting record for South Carolina and Georgia Republicans as a major factor.

Keywords: Atlanta Journal-Constitution; Augusta, Georgia; Carroll Campbell; Charlie Norwood; David Axelrod; George Bush, Sr.; Georgia 11th Congressional District; Georgia 3rd Congressional District; Lynn Westmoreland; Nathan Deal; Office of Congressional Ethics; Pat Buchanan; Phil Gingrey; Ronald Reagan; Strom Thurmond; Tommy Hartnett; University of Georgia; classified advertising; copy editor; editorial editor; hard right; issue advocacy; moderate; political consulting firms; segregation

00:07:07 - Role of media in campaigns

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Partial Transcript: What did you take from your experiences on Capitol Hill, and how did you translate those experiences, those skills, and apply them at the state level during that 2010 campaign?

Segment Synopsis: Robinson discusses the positive and negative impacts media can have on political campaigns. He relates this to traditional media's role in Nathan Deal's 2010 gubernatorial campaign.

Keywords: Atlanta-Journal Constitution; Cox Media Group; David Purdue; Donald Trump; Johnny Isakson; Office of Congressional Ethics; WSB; negative press coverage; political coverage; targeting; television

00:14:06 - 2010 gubernatorial primary

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Partial Transcript: 2010: a relatively large primary field full of arguably much bigger names than Nathan Deal.

Segment Synopsis: Robinson remembers the contentious gubernatorial race in 2010, in which Deal was among many Republican leaders fighting for the party's nomination. He elaborates on how Deal was able to pull ahead of the other nominees and finish second in the primary, allowing him to move onto the runoff.

Keywords: 2008 economic recession; Augusta, Georgia; Eric Johnson; Insurance Commissioner; Jeff Chapman; John Oxendine; Karen Handel; Macon, Georgia; Obama administration; Tea Party; conservatism; fundraising; grassroots; hard right; media; stimulus package

00:21:26 - Runoff with Karen Handel

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Partial Transcript: So, I know from Dr. Bullock's class- I was a good student of his at the University of Georgia- I remembered that he said that the person who finishes first in the runoff wins 70% of the time.

Segment Synopsis: Robinson explains how Deal overcame Karen Handel in the gubernatorial runoff to win the Republican nomination. Robinson credits Mike Huckabee's endorsement of Deal and the media coverage of the event for pushing Deal to victory.

Keywords: Gainesville Times; Jody Hice; Sarah Palin; Sonny Scott; polls; rural vote

00:30:23 - 2010 gubernatorial general election

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Partial Transcript: So you pull it off- the Deal campaign pulls it off, and moves on into the general election.

Segment Synopsis: Robinson contrasts the strategies often employed in campaigning for a primary election versus a general election. He then gives an anecdote about finding out about Deal's victory.

Keywords: Atlanta Journal-Constitution; Barack Obama; Deidra Dukes; Democratic Party; James Salzer; Jeff Hullinger; Richard Belcher; attack ads; personal attacks

00:36:04 - Reelection in 2014

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Partial Transcript: How does that compare to reelection in 2014?

Segment Synopsis: Robinson discusses the elements he believes aided Nathan Deal with his reelection in 2014. He states that, at the time, he was still not certain of Deal being reelected because Jason Carter had both name recognition and extensive fundraising.

Keywords: African-American vote; Republican vote; abortion restrictions; approval ratings; criminal justice reform; gun rights; unemployment

00:41:27 - David Purdue / Accountability courts

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Partial Transcript: You mentioned David Purdue's campaign.

Segment Synopsis: Robinson gives his thoughts on the 2014 U.S. Senate race between David Perdue and Michelle Nunn. He then elaborates why Deal was committed to the drug court program, and how Deal was able to implement such a system in Georgia.

Keywords: "Downton Abbey Democrats"; Jason Deal; Johnny Isakson; Sam Nunn; criminal record; medical marijuana; outsider; prison budget cuts; recidivism

00:50:56 - Education reform efforts

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Partial Transcript: Governer Deal is effective at selling that policy which, as you admitted, may have had a downside politically.

Segment Synopsis: Robinson lists the issues that plagued Deal's attempts at education reform, placing special emphasis on the Opportunity School District Amendment, which he felt certain would pass the state referendum.

Keywords: Georgia General Assembly; Republican issues; charter schools; fiscal conservatism; passive voters; teacher's union; teachers

00:55:01 - Religious liberty / Campus carry

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Partial Transcript: So a couple issues that were very contentious: religious liberty and campus carry.

Segment Synopsis: Robinson describes how and why Nathan Deal vetoed the bills for religious liberty and campus carry in Georgia. He emphasizes that although these bills were popular among the conservative base, they were not popular with Georgians overall nor with the business community.

Keywords: National Rifle Association; Religious Freedom Restoration Act; civil rights protection; discrimination; gun rights; social policy; term limits

01:01:16 - Republican incumbency

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Partial Transcript: Zooming back a bit, the Republican Party of Georgia wins the Governor's Mansion in 2002 for the first time since 1868.

Segment Synopsis: Robinson affirms that Republican supremacy in Georgia is not permanent, and a revival in Democratic success is inevitable to some degree. Robinson advises that Republicans, to stave off Democratic victory, should focus on outreach to traditional Democrat voters instead of focusing on energizing their own base.

Keywords: "Trump Effect"; 2017 6th Congressional District special election; African-American vote; Cobb County, Georgia; David Purdue; DeKalb County, Georgia; Douglas County, Georgia; Gwinnett County, Georgia; Henry County, Georgia; Johnny Isakson; Latino voters; Rockdale County, Georgia; Saxby Chambliss; Sonny Purdue; demographics; minority-majority; national politics; one-party system; packing; racial diversity; redistricting; tribalism

01:11:31 - Voting patterns in Georgia

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Partial Transcript: So we've talked about how this isn't 1980 anymore, and it's not 1970s, 1960s where Democrats were successful by fusing an awkward coalition of voters.

Segment Synopsis: Robinson explains the threats that voting trends among Georgia's various demographics present to the Republican Party if they do not bring in any new voters. He says that, ironically, Republican policy successes are attracting voters into the state who typically vote Democrat, and this could be detrimental to Republican success if they do not address it.

Keywords: 2017 6th Congressional District special election; Alabama; Casey Cagle; David Purdue; David Ralston; Donald Trump; General Assembly seats; Johnny Isakson; Jon Ossoff; Nathan Deal; Religious Freedom Restoration Act; Sonny Purdue; South Carolina; Tom Price; campus carry; coalition; cutting waste; education; female vote; film industry; identity groups; polarization; policy ideas; rural voters; statewide races; suburbia; technical colleges; transportation; white vote

01:23:42 - Economic development / 2018 Democratic gubernatorial primary

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Partial Transcript: Would you credit that- I think Democrats and Republicans can probably agree on that- that the driving force between policy is pro-growth: economic development, transportation development?

Segment Synopsis: Robinson describes the tactics that both Republicans and Democrats employ in Georgia to facilitate economic growth, including facilitating transportation and college graduation. He then ponders about the two main contenders in the Democratic primary for governor in 2018, Stacey Abrams and Stacey Evans.

Keywords: African-American vote; Confederate memorials; Hartsfield-Jackson Airport; Hope Scholarship; Savannah, Georgia; Technical College System of Georgia; University System of Georgia; biracial support; merit-based; need-based; roads

01:30:39 - Future leaders of Republicans

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Partial Transcript: So the Republicans in 2018- a growing primary field filled with veterans.

Segment Synopsis: Robinson discusses potential future leaders of the Georgia Republican Party. He includes names such as the state Attorney General Chris Carr, Representatives Tom Graves and Doug Collins, and young politicians such as Houston Gaines and Carmen Foskey.

Keywords: Brian Strickland; David Purdue; Hunter Hill; John Watson; Johnny Isakson; Nathan Deal; conservatives