Georgia On Their Minds For the Holidays?

This is old news for those paying really close attention, but as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution‘s Greg Bluestein and Jim Galloway remind us in the wake of three new statewide polls, there’s a significant chance gubernatorial and Senate contests in Georgia will go into overtime thanks to the state’s atavistic majority requirement for general elections and persistently visible levels of support for libertarian candidates. RCP’s polling average for the Senate race gives David Perdue the lead with only 45%; only two polls all year have given him a majority. The governor’s race is even closer, with front-runner and incumbent Nathan Deal topping 50% just once, back in July.

The biggest imponderable in the polls is, as usual, the composition of the electorate. An AJC survey of likely voters that has Deal leading Carter 43/42 and Perdue leading Nunn 45/41 utilized a tight LV screen yielding an electorate in which African-Americans were only 24%. Black voters were 28% of the Georgia electorate in 2010. A WSB/Landmark poll, by contrast, pegs the black vote at 29%; it had Carter leading Deal 47/44 among LVs, and Nunn leading Perdue 46/43.

The AJC has Libertarian candidates drawing 6% in the Senate race and 7% in the Senate race. Even if that number predictably declines a couple of points, you can see the potential for a runoff.

And that’s where Georgia’s calendar gets really weird. A gubernatorial (or any other state office) runoff would occur on Tuesday, December 2, four days before Louisiana’s “jungle primary” runoff. A runoff for federal offices, including the Senate, wouldn’t occur until January 6.

There’s a strong and persuasive CW that Republicans have a decisive advantage in such late general election runoffs, which are almost like special elections when it comes to turnout patterns. Last time in happened statewide in Georgia, on December 2, 2008, Saxby Chambliss crushed Jim Martin 57/43. But since Democrats already held a super-majority in the Senate at that time, there wasn’t an enormous amount at stake in the runoff. That may or may not be the case this time around.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.