GOP internal poll: Georgia is in play

GOP internal poll: Georgia is in play

You don’t need to take my word for it. Listen to David Perdue, speaking to “Women for Trump” on a conference call on Monday:

“We have had our wake-up call in Georgia,” Perdue said, detailing the state’s recent electoral history of increasingly tight races. Perdue said he needs to win “twice the number of votes” than he did in his 2014 campaign to keep his seat due to the influx of new Democrats in Georgia. “The demographic moves against us. But we can still win this if we get out and make sure that all of our voters vote. That’s what this comes down to.”

Ginger Howard, a Georgia committeewoman for the Republican Party, responded that Perdue’s analysis was “very sobering.”

“It’s hard to hear,” she said on the call. “The truth hurts sometimes — and we need to know that because we’ve got to work doubly hard.”

When I read that a few days ago I wondered what data Perdue was seeing behind the scenes to so alarm him. Now we know. The Georgia House GOP Caucus conducted an internal poll taking the temperature of the electorate six months out from the vote. They polled everything — Trump vs. Biden, approval ratings for Trump, Brian Kemp, Kelly Loeffler, and Perdue, and, importantly, reaction to how Trump and Kemp are handling the COVID-19 crisis. The only good news is that Perdue leads his Democratic challenger by six points, although even that comes with an asterisk. He’s at just 45 percent right now, not great for an incumbent whose surname is well-known in Georgia.

As for the rest:

Voters are evenly split on Trump, but Kemp’s disapproval rating (52%) outweigh his approval rating (43%). Loeffler is deeper underwater after grappling with an uproar over her stock transactions during the pandemic, with an approval of 20% and disapproval of 47%. [Doug] Collins’ approval rating is about 10 percentage points higher than his disapproval…

Trump and Biden are in a statistical tie in the race for president, with Trump at 45% and Biden at 44%. Only about 5% of Georgians are undecided, and another 6% back a third-party candidate…

A majority of voters disapprove of the way Trump (51%) and Kemp (54%) are handling the pandemic.

Loeffler’s numbers are shockingly bad, no doubt because of intrigue surrounding her curiously timed stock trades as the epidemic was first beginning to explode. Right now she has just 11 percent of the vote in Georgia’s Senate jungle primary, far behind Collins at 29 percent. Two Democrats also have ~11 percent, meaning that Loeffler stands a very good chance of not even making the runoff. In the end, the GOP establishment that’s currently furious at Collins for primarying her may be grateful that he chose to run. Loeffler may prove unelectable.

Her political problems are part of a perfect storm facing Georgia Republicans. There’s the “insider trading” suspicions; there’s the fact that a pandemic and economic catastrophe have descended with Republicans in the White House and the governor’s office; and there’s Kemp’s decision to reopen early, which has become such a political lightning rod that even Trump has taken to commenting unfavorably on it during White House briefings. Kemp’s 42/53 approval rating must be due in part to Georgians’ skepticism about that decision:

Asked about reopening soon, 58.4 percent said Georgia is moving too quickly versus just 31.1 percent who said the state is moving at an appropriate pace. Bear in mind, many governors have seen their numbers leap during the crisis. Kemp’s not only doing poorly objectively, he’s doing abysmally given the curve state executives are being graded on by voters at the moment. Erick Erickson’s right: If Kemp’s decision ends up triggering a second wave of COVID in the state, Republicans are facing a ferocious backlash.

I wonder if Stacey Abrams is second-guessing her decision not to run in either of Georgia’s two Senate races this fall. Normally it’d be foolish for a rising Democratic star to run in a red state in a year when an incumbent Republican president is at the top of the ballot but this is fertile political ground for an upset.

Is Georgia still a “red” state, though? Data like the above somehow never loses its power to shock even though it’s been obvious for a few years that Georgia is more purple than red. Trump beat Clinton there by just five points in 2016. Abrams nearly knocked off Kemp in the governor’s race two years ago. Perdue won comfortably in 2014 by seven points but that’s not a blowout margin, and as he said during the conference call described up top, demographics have changed since then. We shouldn’t be surprised to find the race between Trump and Biden tight in Georgia — or in North Carolina. A new poll (public, not internal) from that state is also out today:

It’s easy to dismiss that since North Carolina’s another Georgia-type state where it seems like Democrats are forever threatening but never quite get over the hump. Except they have gotten over the hump: The governor, Roy Cooper, is a Democrat. Thom Tillis won his last election by a point and a half in a very favorable Republican environment. Trump won by less than four points in North Carolina in 2016 and enjoys a current approval rating, if this poll is to be believed, of 41/53. This makes three polls in a row showing Biden ahead in NC, in fact. Why? Well, again, coronavirus politics are proving treacherous for the GOP:

Trump has been smarter lately about the great reopening debate, choosing to lie low and occasionally urge caution when the likes of Kemp begins moving towards lifting restrictions. But I don’t know if he can undo the bad impression he made early on when he became the lead cheerleader for reopening sooner rather than later. In lieu of an exit question, read Peter Spiliakos on why the president’s numbers have slid lately. It’s not because of his weird remarks last week about “cleaning” the body internally. His polling was in motion before that. Pretty clearly it’s because he doesn’t grasp the extent to which most Americans are frightened by the epidemic and worried about getting infected. Which is a big vulnerability potentially considering that one of Biden’s few stand-out political gifts is his ability to communicate empathy.

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David Strom 8:41 PM on January 30, 2023