Après le deluge: Key takeaways from Georgia's primaries

Après le deluge: Key takeaways from Georgia's primaries

So much for “Jim Crow 2.0” and voter suppression, eh? We already knew from early voting that turnout had increased massively in Georgia’s primaries, exposing hysterics like Joe Biden and Chuck Schumer as cheap demagogues and Stacey Abrams as a manipulative self-promoter. With 95% of precincts reporting, however, we can learn a few other lessons from last night.

First, let’s look at the overall turnout. Four years ago, both parties had competitive primaries for their gubernatorial nominations. Brian Kemp actually came in second in that primary with only 25.6% of the vote, but forced Casey Cagle into a runoff to win. Republicans turned out 607,874 voters, while Democrats turned out 553,450, 76.5% of whom voted for Abrams.

Last night, only the GOP’s gubernatorial primary was competitive, as Abrams ran unopposed for the Democratic nomination. She got all 708,559 votes, a 28% improvement for Democrats in overall turnout. Brian Kemp alone got 23% more votes than Abrams (876,839), and overall the GOP got 1,189,921 votes in their gubernatorial primary – almost double what they got in 2018, and 68% more votes than Democrats did in the same primary.

But that may be a bit apples to oranges, since Abrams didn’t have a challenger, even a fringe opponent. What about a statewide race with a more open primary? Let’s take a look at the Secretary of State race, a major focus after what happened in 2020. Five Democrats split 680,157 votes, and the top two (Bee Nguyen and Dee Dawkins-Haigler) will have to go to a runoff, so that was very competitive. Four Republicans split 1,153,612 votes, while Brad Raffensperger won it outright with 52.3% of the vote. That turnout was 70% higher than Democrats, and this time was more than double the GOP turnout of 2018. In fact, Republicans got more votes in this cycle than the overall SecState turnout of 2018.

Democrats improved over 2018 in this race too, and not by a small margin — thirty-two-percent, in fact (512,500 votes in 2018). But the massive flood of Republicans to the polls in Georgia far exceeded Democrats’ enthusiasm, and that should worry Democrats across the country, not just in the Peach State. Republicans outvoted Democrats in Ohio by a 2:1 margin, and they outpolled Democrats in Pennsylvania by well over 100,000. This trend portends very bad outcomes in November for Democrats.

What can we learn from the big wins for Kemp and Raffensperger? Clearly, Georgia Republicans have stopped responding to Donald Trump, since those two were his biggest betes noires in the 2020 post-election period. After watching those two Senate seats slip through their hands in the December 2020 runoff, Trump and his team should have realized that a backlash was coming. Instead, they kept doubling down against Kemp and Raffensperger, both of whom outperformed expectations last night. It was pretty clear that Kemp would avoid a runoff, but he beat Trump-endorsed David Perdue by fifty points, 74/22. You’d never have guessed that Perdue had won statewide election before. He would have been much better advised to run for the Senate seat against Raphael Warnock, who got 700K votes in his largely-unopposed primary run, but Trump convinced him to challenge Kemp instead. Big mistake for both men.

Raffensperger must be having the biggest last laugh, however. He was expected to get a narrow plurality yesterday and have to fight a runoff against Trump-endorsed Jody Hice. Instead, he beat Hice by nearly 20 points (52/33), who barely registered outside his current House district. His management of the new voting law that Democrats called “Jim Crow 2.0” saw a clean outcome, massive new turnout across the board, and fast results that leave nothing up for debate. That’s about as big a win as Raffensperger could have dreamed up.

That doesn’t mean that Trump’s influence has disappeared, of course. Marjorie Taylor Greene handily won her primary in her House district, and Trump-promoted Hershel Walker won big in the GOP’s Senate primary. But this strongly suggests that voters won’t make choices in 2022 or 2024 based on 2020 and old grudges, either. Candidates who want to run in this competitive environment had better focus on the future rather than the past.

As for Democrats, this debacle shows that base-turnout strategies will fail in an environment where voters are angry over the present, too. Joe Biden’s an albatross around their necks, and the collapse of his “Jim Crow 2.0” hysteria will only feed into the confidence-crisis cascade in which he’s trapped himself for almost a year. Either Biden needs a major reset to his presidency or Democrats have to reset themselves, and it might take both for 2024. The midterms look more and more like a lost cause, and not just in Georgia.

And if there wasn’t enough here to give Democrat organizers the cold sweats, there’s also this:

Welcome to the consequences of incompetence, Democrats.

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