Rep. John BarrowThe fight of John Barrow’s political life turned out to be little more than a casual sparring match when the unofficial vote tally found the incumbent Democrat cruising to a fifth term by nearly 8 points.

By Wednesday morning, Barrow had captured just under 54 percent of unofficial returns while his Republican challenger, Lee Anderson, notched only 46 percent.

In his victory speech Tuesday night, Barrow spoke of his efforts to transcend “labels” and instead take his policy cues from his conservative district.

“That is the only hope for our country, that members of Congress can dod the same thing and look beyond the labels and focus on the issues we have in common,” Barrow said as throngs of sign-waving supporters filled the Partridge Inn in Augusta. “If members of Congress would take the cue from the voters of the 12th District, we could actually get something done in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Barrow raised more than $2.6 million and outspent Anderson by a factor of two. But outside Republican groups managed to erase that deficit by dumping more than $3.4 million into the contest on his behalf.

Against all the odds–a district made more conservative by GOP mapmakers and an unpopular president sharing his ticket–Barrow proved once again he is a survivor.

His margin of victory was more than double expected by even election handicappers already giving the blue dog the advantage, and means that deep south Democrats will evade extinction for another cycle.

In spite of his stunning victory, though, Barrow will now shift his attention to 2014. Republicans have.

– James Richardson