The last Democrat to carry Georgia in a presidential election was Jimmy Carter … mainly because he came from there [see update — 1992]. Two years ago, Republican David Perdue won a Senate seat in the Peach State by eight points over Democratic legacy candidate Michelle Nunn, and Nathan Deal won the gubernatorial race by the same margin over Carter’s grandson. The GOP controls all but four of Georgia’s 14 House seats.
And yet, today, Hillary Clinton has a slight edge over Donald Trump in this deep-South state, at least in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll:
Democrat Hillary Clinton has built a slim lead over Donald Trump in Georgia after one of the worst weeks of the Republican’s campaign, and the Libertarian presidential ticket cracked double-digits, according to a new Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll.
The poll released Friday shows Clinton at 44 percent and Trump at 40 percent in a head-to-head matchup, within the poll’s margin of error. It is the latest showing a close race between the two candidates in Georgia, a state that has voted for the GOP nominee since 1996.
In a four-way race, Clinton led Trump 41-38, followed by Libertarian Gary Johnson with 11 percent and Green Party candidate Jill Stein with 2 percent.
Mitt Romney carried the state by seven points in 2012. The race in Georgia wasn’t considered critical enough to conduct exit polls, so the demo breakdown for comparison purposes doesn’t exist. The numbers in the AJC poll look worrisome on their own, however — if this isn’t just an outlier or a temporary burst of goodwill for Hillary after the election.
The biggest issue is also probably the best reason for hope. Hillary holds 88% of Democrats, while Trump only holds 81% of Republicans. That may change significantly over the next few weeks, especially if Trump gets his act together and starts focusing more on Hillary than the distractions that ate up an entire week. Hillary has a 16-point lead among women, but Trump has a nine-point lead among men — but only scores a plurality at 46%. Among both Republicans and men, Trump has room to grow, assuming his performance improves.
Other demos raise questions about both candidates. Hillary handily beats Trump among voters under 40 as expected, but she only gets a 48% plurality rather than the commanding majority one would expect. Trump gets 5% of black voters, a terrible if not surprising performance, but Hillary “only” gets 83% rather than the mid-90s on which a Democrat can usually rely. There may be some room for Trump to grow there, assuming he orients his campaign to do so. Neither candidate gains a majority in any income bracket, and Trump only has an eight-point lead in the middle-class demo. Given the long experience voters have with Hillary Clinton as a political figure, these numbers suggest that Trump might have some upside in some surprising demos — again, assuming he can campaign to take advantage of it.
Should this be taken seriously? It’s literally the first poll of the race in RCP’s aggregation to show Hillary with a lead, and two polls taken after both conventions (but before the Khantroversy really overshadowed the campaign) put Trump up or tied. Even if it’s legit, one can expect the race to revert more to form in the next couple of weeks, once the afterglow of the conventions fade … unless Team Trump keeps stepping on its own feet. Keep this in mind, though: of all the Deep South states, Georgia has looked the most vulnerable for some time.
Update: Actually, Bill Clinton won Georgia in 1992 and 1996, which I had forgotten and should have checked before going off of memory. My apologies for the error.
Updated update: Actually, he only won Georgia in 1992, not 1996. My apologies for the error in the correction to the error. Accordingly, I award myself the Monty Python Llama Award for the day: