0

Will the rat return to the Peach State?

Remember "The Rat" - a giant Godzilla-like creature that stalked the Georgia TV-scape nearly 10 years ago? The monster - a guy in a rat suit - starred in the darnedest political commercial Georgia had ever seen. The rat gobbled up everything in sight. He even ate the Capitol. The year was 2002.

Georgia Democrats were aghast. Depicting Georgia's then governor, Roy E. Barnes, as a marauding rodent seemed, well, somehow disrespectful. Perhaps it was, but it worked. Sonny Perdue won the governor's mansion and led the first Republican takeover of Georgia government since the end of Reconstruction.

GOP strategist Dan McLagan was responsible for the rat idea, which was equal parts comedy, tragedy and inspiration.

When gallant Republicans finally vanquished "Rat Roy" at the end of the commercial, a deep voice intoned:

"There's a new day dawning in Georgia. The doors to the governor's office will be flung open to the people. New ideas will be encouraged and rapidly implemented. Schools will flourish; traffic diminish. As businesses are unleashed to grow jobs, and, as Georgia recovers, new employers will flood the state."

The rat lied, but the people believed him anyway. Unemployment skyrocketed and so did home foreclosures. Traffic didn't diminish. It exploded. Developers went bankrupt. The state was caught up in the worst drought in centuries - a drought for which most governmental jurisdictions were totally unprepared.

Gov. Sonny Perdue, who went to China twice, has received much of the blame for the Decade of the Rat. Singling out Sonny may be unfair. A loser elephant in the White House and a mostly brain-dead congressional delegation contributed to our mess. Come to think of it, Mother Nature jumped in, too.

So here we are, near the end of the decade and political campaigns are revving up again. Dan McLagan, the father of the rat, is reportedly on his way back to Georgia to help Republicans, possibly gubernatorial contender Karen Handel. McLagan is said to be traveling this way in the company of the rat. The rat's Dr. Frankenstein badly needs a win.

In November, Democrat Kay Hagan of North Carolina whacked noted GOP incumbent Elizabeth Dole in the Senate election. McLagan, Dole's chief adviser and hatchet man, claimed Hagan was godless when, in fact, she was Presbyterian. McLagan should have used the rat. The Presbyterian beat the socks off the Inquisition's McLagan and his candidate.

In any event, the 2010 statewide elections ought to be dandy. My current GOP primary favorite for governor is Handel, if she doesn't get carried away by McLagan and one of his oddball schemes.

Since ex-Gov. Roy Barnes is keeping mum on his plans, I'll sit on my Democratic forecasts for a while.

The current era is not over 'til it's over. Though the General Assembly gave big business everything it wanted this year, there's still work to be done. The session is supposed to adjourn next week. Don't count on it.

The budget - even with a heavy dose of pep pills from the federal stimulus package - is still in dire straits, with deficits in Medicaid and other entitlement programs.

House leaders say a special session of the General Assembly will almost certainly be necessary to untangle the spending bills.

Perhaps House Speaker Glenn Richardson should call in McLagan and the rat for consultation. After all, the rat had the right answer back in 2002. He just promised the moon, and the suckers believed every word he squeaked.

Syndicated columnist Bill Shipp writes on Georgia politics. E-mail him at shipp1@bellsouth.net.