When Bill Clinton won the state of Georgia 25 years ago, it began a conversation that continues today, wrestling with the question of whether or not the state will go blue as we've seen with Virginia. Virginia, once a steady state for Republicans went to Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 as well as for Hillary Clinton in 2016. The state has two Democratic senators (Mark Warner and Tim Kaine), and the governor is a Democrat (Terry McAuliffe).
Georgia looks different. Since Clinton's 1992 surprise, Republicans came out on top in every presidential election. The state's senators are both Republicans (Johnny Isakson and David Perdue) as is the governor (Nathan Deal). Now that the presidential election is over, Democrats are looking to the governor's mansion in 2018 for their next opportunity to show the state is moving from red to, at the very least, purple.
In 2014, Democrats thought they'd be able to get some blue into the state, running well-known Georgia names, Nunn and Carter, against Republicans. Democrat Michelle Nunn, daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn and Democrat Jason Carter, grandson of former Georgia governor and President Jimmy Carter, were both highly-regarded candidates in 2014. Nunn, running against David Perdue for the senate and Carter, running for governor against Nathan Deal, both lost by 8 percentage points.
As for 2018, the upcoming Democratic primary is likely to pit two women against each for the nomination. Stacey Abrams, the current House minority leader in the Georgia House of Representatives, will square off against State Rep. Stacey Evans. Salena Zito wrote a piece for the Washington Examiner on the two different approaches both women will take:
Abrams comes from the party's urban school of thought, which is that campaigning is all about manpower.
Evans, in contrast, is running a campaign based on a story — an important economic story that appeals to the blue-collar white voters that Georgia Democrats lost to Donald Trump.
The question is, will that story work? Or do Democrats merely need to turn out more of their urban and ethnic base?
Democrats have been saying forever and a day that Georgia is the next state they intend to flip in their favor. They promised to do just that during last November's presidential election, and again in last week's special election in the 6th Congressional District for an open House seat.
But it wasn't even close, either time.
Evans' story is compelling. Raised by a single mother in a small Georgia town, she says she lived in 16 different homes in the span of 18 years. She attended the University of Georgia via a Hope Scholarship, went on to law school, met her husband, then ran successfully to get elected to the Georgia House of Representatives where she represents the 42nd district.
That said, it is the south, and there are many people with compelling stories to tell.
One such person is Lieutenant Gov. Casey Cagle. Cagle is one of four Republicans who have declared they will seek the GOP nomination for governor in 2018. Cagle is the son of a single mother. His biography says he attended eight different schools by the time he reached the sixth grade. After an injury had ended his college football career, he started a tuxedo rental company at the age of 20 and turned it into a flourishing business with multiple locations across northern Georgia.
Cagle's story is similar to that of Evans and will make for a compelling match-up should the two of them be the party nominees. Both of them still have to get past formidable opponents in the primary. Evans will have to beat Abrams, who wields considerable power in the upper echelons of the state Democratic Party. Abrams is also African-American will do well with urban voters in Fulton and DeKalb counties. Cagle meanwhile, will have to defeat Secretary of State Brian Kemp for the GOP nomination.
Their chances of carrying the state are still slim. Changing demographics haven't necessarily represented a shift to people likely to vote Democrat, but more liable to vote for an "establishment" Republican. In the Georgia Republican primary, Donald Trump won big outside of the Atlanta area. But in the metropolitan area in counties such as Cobb, Fulton, and DeKalb, it was Sen. Marco Rubio who won, not Trump. In part, it explains why Trump won Georgia by a smaller margin over Hillary Clinton than Mitt Romney and John McCain did over Barack Obama.
Both Cagle and Kemp represent the "establishment" type of Republicans voters in the Atlanta area, thereby making them formidable opponents for either Evans or Abrams.
The bottom line is Democrats actually have to win a statewide election before any talk of Georgia going blue can begin.
Jay Caruso (@JayCaruso) is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is the assistant managing editor at RedState, as well as a contributor to National Review and The Atlantic.
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