News Release: Politics

Dec. 3,  2008

Future Looks Hopeful for Georgia Dems Despite Senate Defeat

The battle over the Georgia Senate seat ended in a decisive win for Republican incumbent Saxby Chambliss, but the state's changing demographic make-up should give Democrats hope for the future, says Emory political scientist Alan Abramowitz.

"The long-term demographic trends in the state favor Democrats. The nonwhite share of the electorate should continue to increase for the foreseeable future, and metro Atlanta continues to grow rapidly," Abramowitz says.

In the presidential election, Barack Obama won 57 percent of the vote in the 10-county Atlanta metro area, a huge improvement over John Kerry's 48 percent in 2004. And, the state's feuding Republicans are likely to have a contentious gubernatorial primary in two years, Abramowitz says.  

"If Georgia Democrats can unite behind a strong candidate for governor and mobilize the state's growing Democratic base, the party should have a good chance of retaking the statehouse in 2010," he says. "And don't be surprised to see Georgia in the blue column in the 2012 presidential election."  

Democratic Defeat Due to Lack of Turnout

Before the Obama campaign moved into Georgia, this was not a race that Democrats were hopeful about winning, Abramowitz says.  

"Not only is Georgia a difficult state for Democrats, but the party was unable to recruit a top-tier candidate to run against Saxby Chambliss. Jim Martin was recruited by the state party at the last minute to prevent DeKalb County CEO Vernon Jones, a highly controversial figure who had bragged about voting twice for George Bush, from winning the nomination by default," Abramowitz says.

By registering and turning out huge numbers of African-American voters, "the Obama campaign turned the senate race from a yawner into a nail-biter," Abramowitz says. "In the runoff election, though, without the pull of Obama at the top of the ticket, there was a dramatic fall-off in turnout especially among African-American voters."

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