New Outlook in Georgia Senate Race

Tuesday’s Georgia primary produced a Republican Senate run-off election that will take us well into summer, and the county vote delineation is providing an early clue as to who will prevail on July 22.

First-place finisher David Perdue, the former Dollar General CEO, is in the far superior position as the run-off begins based upon his performance in the state’s most populous areas. Though the second-place qualifier, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA-1), recorded impressive vote totals in Georgia’s southern sector, the counties and regions he carried have far fewer GOP voters than those in the northern section of the state, particularly in and around the Atlanta metropolitan area. Kingston came within one county of sweeping southern Georgia. Only Grady County, on the Georgia-Florida border with just 1,885 total votes cast, eschewed Kingston in favor of Perdue.

In the key Atlanta area counties themselves, neither Purdue nor Kingston won. In Fulton, Gwinnett, and Forsyth Counties, it was former Secretary of State Karen Handel who placed first. Perdue was second in each of the three entities, with Rep. Kingston a distant third.

The fourth and fifth place finishers, representatives Phil Gingrey (R-GA-11) and Paul Broun (R-GA-10), did well in their individual congressional districts, but nowhere else. And again, it was Purdue who placed a consistent second in these regions, with Kingston far behind.

Additionally, Purdue will likely have the easier sell to voters. He successfully navigated placing all of his opponents into a “politicians box” and campaigned as ‘the businessman against the politician’. This same theme will be prevalent in the run-off, as Kingston’s 20 years in the House will certainly be used as evidence of him being the “Washington candidate”.

Furthermore, the business associations, such as the Chamber of Commerce, which launched an independent effort on Kingston’s behalf in large order to deny Gingrey and Broun the nomination, won’t have much reason to become involved in the run-off. With former CEO Purdue as Kingston’s sole opponent, there is little benefit for the business groups to actively spend money to effect an outcome between men who are consistent allies.

The Georgia run-off has a relatively long campaign cycle, meaning developments could change the outlook, but the early indications suggest that Purdue is securely in the driver’s seat.

The eventual winner will face Democratic nominee Michelle Nunn, who captured 75 percent of the vote in her party primary. There is an argument to be made to suggest that though attracting three-quarters of any vote is a solid sum, it could be an under-performance in this instance. Considering that she was the party leadership’s clear choice and had no credible opposition, the fact that one in four Democrats still chose not to vote for her does suggest a certain degree of weakness. A number breaking 80 percent would have been more in line for a candidate possessing her political assets.

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