In the once solidly red South, Georgia has become a spellbinding toss-up state. Not only does Democratic Party star and superorganizer Stacey Abrams have incumbent GOP Governor Brian Kemp in a tight race, but Senator Raphael Warnock is fighting off one of the century’s most befuddling challengers in former football icon Herschel Walker. A state that proved crucial in stopping Trump’s reelection could be vital to retaining Democratic control of the Senate and stopping voter-suppression efforts in one of the nation’s 10 largest metropolitan areas.
History is clear that midterm elections are usually a disappointment for the sitting president’s political party. That trend might be upturned in 2022, with some unexpected Democratic victories in reliably Republican territory. Can Georgia contain the expected red tide? Or will the Supreme Court’s decision striking down Roe v. Wade inspire backlash, building inroads for the Democrats?
I explored the Peach State showdown in a feature in TNR’s September issue. On August 30, I spoke via Zoom with Ed Kilgore, a Georgia native and self-described “veteran Democratic wonk” who has worked for three governors, one senator, and a D.C. think tank. We were joined by Dr. Andra Gillespie, the brilliant Emory University political scientist whose work focuses on political participation in the post–civil rights era. We discussed the ongoing battle royal for the unlikely swing state, examining polls, candidate strategies, shifting demographics, and how candidates’ strengths can transfer across our urban/rural political chasm—and where they’ve faltered.