Despite the much-hyped efforts of Democrats to take back the governor’s mansion and an open Senate seat in Georgia, the state remained firmly in Republican hands Tuesday night.
CEO-turned-candidate David Perdue swept past Democrat Michelle Nunn, 55 percent to 42 percent. Meanwhile, Gov. Nathan Deal trounced his opponent, Jason Carter, 55 percent to 42 percent. Because Deal and Perdue won their races with more than 50 percent of the vote, neither will head to a runoff, as had been widely expected.
Nunn conceded the race shortly after 11 p.m., telling supporters, “We have exceeded every expectation of what was possible in this race.
“Georgia was not in play. We put Georgia in play.”
But Georgia may not have really been in play after all. Democrats had hoped that the strength of their candidates’ names -- both are scions of prominent Democratic families – and Georgia’s rapidly changing demographics would give their party its first chance in more than a decade to win major statewide offices in the deep red state.
Of the 1.5 million new residents in the state between 2000 and 2010, 81 percent have been non-white, including 1.2 million African Americans. Since 1990, the state's Hispanic population has increased eight-fold, while the Asian-American population has quadrupled. Those numbers, along with President Obama’s not-terrible result there in 2012 (he lost by single digits), made Georgia seem ripe for the taking for two aggressive, new-generation progressives like Nunn and Carter.
Carter worked relentlessly to pin blame for the state’s dismal unemployment rate, the highest in the nation, on Gov. Deal. At the same time, Nunn managed to get traction against Perdue with a series of attacks on his background running companies that relied heavily on outsourcing, and Perdue’s own tendency toward gaffes related to his CEO past. “We closed factories all the time,” he told a reporter just before the election.
Democrats also hyped their ground game, citing more than 100,000 new voter registrations and insisting that, while some polls showed their candidates down, a massive get-out-the-vote operation would lift them to victory, or at least to a runoff when they would live to fight another day.
While Democrats tried to localize and personalize, Republicans went big, tying both Nunn and Carter to President Barack Obama, whose approval ratings in the state hover around 40 percent.
But exit polls taken early on Election Day gave a clear indication of the actual reality that Democrats faced in 2014, with 55 percent of voters saying they disapprove of job President Barack Obama is doing and just 44 percent approving -- numbers that tracked almost exactly the outcome of both statewide races.