As votes rolled in, it became clear early on that a runoff would be far from needed in Georgia. The stark party-line voting was evidenced by Sen.-elect David Perdue’s (R) triumph over Michelle Nunn (D) at 52.97 to 45.12 percent compared with Governor Nathan Deal’s (R) win over Jason Carter (D) at 52.81 to 44.83 percent.
Yet Perdue’s win came at the welcome price of Republicans gaining the Senate for President Obama’s remaining two years in office. Among Perdue’s promises in his acceptance speech was to work toward bipartisanship. But after such a nasty blow, how willing might Democrats be to play nice—both in D.C. and back in Georgia? Better yet, how willing might Perdue be to offer bipartisanship considering his obvious distaste for D.C. politics?
“The thing we heard more than anything else is that Washington’s broken,” Perdue told followers during his acceptance speech, “…and we don’t want to leave this world to our kids without making it better.”
What Georgia Democrats had planned
In the weeks leading up to Election Day, Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D) had gone several rounds with Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp (R). Kemp had filed charges against Abrams’ New Georgia Project to help register new voters after a handful of applications had been flagged for potential fraud. Additionally, more than 40,000 voter registration applications went missing—applications that were more than likely submitted for low-income and minority voters, the foundational base for Southern Democrats.
Abrams and others of the Democratic Party of Georgia claimed interference by the GOP. The national Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights filed suit to process the held-up applications on Oct. 10, stating all “missing” applications had been properly submitted before the Oct. 5 deadline. But a Georgia judge dismissed the suit with virtually no time or opportunity to recover the applications before Nov. 4.
Even famed Atlanta-based rapper Lil John had trouble voting this year. He flew home from L.A. on Tuesday afternoon to vote in Alpharetta after he failed to receive his absentee ballot.
Yet Georgia Republicans saw instead antics from the Left. Charlie Harper, the conservative founder of Georgia’s political website Peach Pundit, claimed the fuss over voter registration was “clearly designed to make voters think that other votes like theirs are being stolen.”
In truth, Abrams herself said much the same thing to encourage volunteers on the campaign trail.
“People show up for a movement,” noted Abrams. “They don’t show up for a moment…. The most compelling way to turn people out [to vote] is telling them ‘you can’t.’”
Georgia: pretty in pink
Even after the millions of dollars spent in campaign funds, the thousands of volunteers thanked in concession speeches for their tireless efforts, and numerous ads pushing Georgia to turn blue, it still wasn’t nearly enough to elect Nunn to the Senate or Carter to the governor’s office. With more than a 200,000-vote margin in both races, those 40,000 “missing” voter registration applications would not have made a difference—even if all 40,000 voters had turned up to the polls and voted Democrat.
Kristina LaPlant, a political science doctoral student at Georgia State University, has been crunching voting numbers for the Senate race since the May primaries. Her analysis of Georgia’s electorate goes into rich detail for each candidate.
“My preliminary findings suggest that Michelle Nunn did significantly better than [Perdue] in counties with high turnout coupled with a younger, highly educated electorate,” said LaPlant, confirming what most Americans assume about the parties’ bases. “On the other hand, early findings also show that David Perdue had no shortage of votes in white, elderly, affluent, and rural counties.”
What’s more, the New York Times’ detailed map of Senate voting results shows that even redistricting in Georgia might not be able to help Dems in the 2016 presidential race. True to stereotype, the blue pockets of the state are centered in metropolitan Atlanta and other major cities, often splitting those cities along a red/blue divide.
In other words, PJ Media and other news sources were right: Georgia may be pink, but it’s not going blue anytime soon.
LaPlant, however, was not altogether dismissive of the Democrats’ plight. She emphasized that “turnout in key counties decided this election.”
“Expect Georgia to turn purple over the next few years,” said LaPlant, “if [Democratic] candidates can mobilize the minority vote while Republicans continue to factionalize throughout rural Georgia.”
So what happens to Nunn and Carter if Georgia does turn purple?
Carter, on the one hand, kept his seat in the Georgia Senate. His grandfather Jimmy Carter’s legacy and his own strong political aspirations are surely a sign that this was the first big step of many. Expect to see Carter’s name up against Deal again in 2018, or even against U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson.
Nunn, however, may well drift back into the nonprofit world, where she shined as CEO of Points of Light. While Nunn was considered by many as one of the brightest and sharpest candidates on the national scene this year, her lack of political record makes it unlikely for her to pitch such a risky—not to mention, costly—bid for public office anytime soon. Some would say that’s a shame, considering her campaign promises of bipartisanship and her father former Sen. Sam Nunn’s history of just that.
Throughout the campaign cycle, Americans have called for a change of tone in Washington. In his acceptance speech, Perdue took the opportunity to promise an “approach of bipartisanship, not of partisanship” in his political efforts, particularly with regard to improving healthcare. He reminded Georgia that his intentions were not for a political career.
“Georgia wants someone to fight for them… not for special interests,” he proclaimed. “We believe it’s time to put citizen legislators up there, people who are from us, among us.”
While Carter and Deal spent the past year debating education reforms and Georgia’s rising unemployment rate, Nunn and Perdue really only had the past few months to battle it out over who would be the better non-politician in politics. Nunn called attention to her moderate tone and her plan for Georgia’s growth; Perdue stood on a platform of corporate business savvy and the promise of term limits.
Deal will serve a second term as Georgia’s governor. Carter’s star is newly on the rise as Nunn’s may peter out. And Perdue may yet limit himself in his political career, but the question remains: Will he limit himself only by term, or will his fervor against politics limit him in other ways?