Opinion: Two Georgias, but only one new governor

Georgia Republicans are obsessed with guns — guns guns guns guns guns — and they’re downright terrified of immigrants.

Also, guns.

That’s certainly the impression left by the campaign commercials being aired in the GOP gubernatorial primary. Those ads were created by political consultants paid to know their audience, on behalf of politicians competing to lead their party, and presumably are based on reams of internal polling data. If anyone should know what drives the GOP base, they should, and their ads reflect it.

The contrast with their Democratic counterparts could not be more stark. Stacey Evans and Stacey Abrams are appealing to Georgia Democrats by talking about issues such as education, the HOPE scholarship and Medicaid expansion. The two parties aren’t just talking to two different audiences; it’s as if those audiences exist in two different realities.

At this point, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle is the Republican favorite not just to win the nomination, but to win it outright next Tuesday without a runoff. The most recent AJC-Channel 2 Action News poll, taken roughly three weeks ago, put Cagle at 41 percent, more than 30 points ahead of his closest competitor. That’s well short of the 50 percent that Cagle needs to avoid a runoff, but with a third of Republican voters still undecided when the poll was taken, it would be a bit of an upset should he be forced into a runoff.

However, if that upset occurs, Georgia Democrats would awaken the next morning energized. Not only would it demonstrate a weakness in Cagle’s candidacy, it would guarantee two more months of gun-centric TV ads likely to alienate the suburban, female vote that Democrats would need to win.

On the Democratic side, Abrams is the favorite but the electorate is harder to read. The former House minority leader is smart, experienced and telegenic, with a personal style that projects both competence and friendliness. A lot of politicians have one quality or the other, but only a few are blessed to have both. That combination has already made Abrams a bit of a media star on the national scene.

However, that also has had drawbacks. For example, if your goal in a campaign is to make yourself a national political figure, it makes sense to talk about wanting to sandblast the sculptures off the side of Stone Mountain, as Abrams proposed early in the race. Do that, and you’ll be lauded for courage and moral leadership by national Democrats. You may even be right, although personally I think those carvings should be preserved as a reminder to future generations of the racism and injustice that put them there.

However, if your goal is to give Georgia Democrats their best shot possible to elect a governor, in a year when the political world is in tumult and the impossible might be possible, I’d argue that the costs of such a symbolic statement far exceed the benefits. That is not, for example, the kind of proposal that Barack Obama would have made in his two successful campaigns for president.

I’m also dubious about the basic math behind Abrams’ strategy to maximize general-election turnout from the black and minority communities, particularly in a year when moderate white voters might be more receptive to Democrats than ever. Evans — also a smart, savvy politician — is better equipped to make a broader appeal to voters, not because of race but simply because as a candidate, she has chosen to stress that message more than her opponent. If you want someone’s vote, you have to ask for it.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Opinion


Solving voting-machine integrity can be simple Integrity in our voting process is simple and inexpensive. When a citizen completes his choices on a direct-recording electronic (DRE) voting machine, but before he certifies the input and makes it permanent, the machine prints two paper copies of his vote choices. The voter then compares one paper copy...
Opinion: Kansas governor’s race might be a test for Trumpism

Recent days have me wondering what Kansas’ fifth governor — James Madison Harvey — would say about the pickle the state find itself in now. Harvey, a Republican, is my relative by marriage. He married Charlotte Cutter, whose sister is my great grandmother. To the inevitable reader who will doubt that someone with the last name of...
Opinion: The White Strategy

In the aftermath of the 2012 election, when just about everyone assumed Mitt Romney lost because he didn’t win enough Hispanic votes, election analyst Sean Trende produced a dissenting take. A close look at the results across the Midwest and Appalachia revealed a large population of what Trende called “missing white voters” &mdash...
Opinion: Partying like it’s 1998

And now for something completely similar. For a while, those of us who devoted a lot of time to understanding the Asian financial crisis two decades ago were wondering whether Turkey was going to stage a re-enactment. Sure enough, that’s what seems to be happening. Here’s the script: start with a country that, for whatever reason, became...
Opinion: Should algorithmd decide who gets criminal bail?

Civil rights groups signed a statement in late July calling for states to ditch pretrial risk assessment tools as a means of evaluating whether an individual accused of a crime should be detained pretrial, contending such data-driven tools do little to remedy racial disparities in the criminal justice system. Conservatives, meanwhile, have expressed...
More Stories