ATHENS — Democratic contenders are flooding the airwaves with television advertising in the two high-profile elections in Georgia, making two completely different appeals to voters.
Stacey Abrams, the Democratic candidate for governor, has released a new advertisement that portrays her as a “math whiz” with big, progressive plans to increase teacher salaries, expand child care, and fund preschool. Another ad promises to use Georgia’s surplus to fund further middle-class stimulus payments and more affordable homes.
Sen. Raphael Warnock, who is seeking for a full six-year term, is running as an independent-minded lawmaker and emphasizing partisan causes like capping insulin costs. One ad brags about his collaboration with Alabama senator Tommy Tuberville, a Republican, to defend peanut producers. Another has endorsements from GOP-leaning individuals who indicate they will vote for Warnock in the general election.
In Georgia, a former Republican stronghold that narrowly supported President Joe Biden and two Democratic senators in the 2020 election, the advertisements illustrate two opposing Democratic visions for how to reclaim the state. Abrams is mainly reliant on base mobilization in an effort to motivate and register disgruntled Georgians and boost progressive turnout. White college graduates in the expanding Atlanta area who feel out of step with a GOP altered by former President Donald Trump are among the center-right independents and soft Republicans Warnock is targeting.
As early voting opens, polling averages reveal a clear party divide: Warnock leads Republican opponent Herschel Walker by around 4 points, while Abrams is in second place behind GOP Gov. Brian Kemp by approximately 5 points.
They are waging two very different campaigns, according to a Kemp aide who was given anonymity to openly critique Democratic tactics. “Watching their speeches, advertisements, and social media, it’s fairly evident.”
Warnock’s relative success in 2020 and his lead in this year’s race, according to the Kemp adviser, can be attributed to his emphasis on “middle-of-the-road policy positions,” like lowering prescription drug costs, and not “some of these more left-leaning issues.” Abrams is “not so much in the persuasion business; she’s in the mobilizing business.
Warnock outperformed Abrams by 14 points among independent voters, according to a recent Quinnipiac University poll of probable Georgia voters. Warnock received 7% of the Republican vote while Abrams received 3%. Democrats were equally divided between the two.
Their adversaries might also influence their contradictory fortunes. Walker presents an turbulent past, domestic violence claims, and new allegations that he paid an ex-girlfriend to get an abortion in 2009. Walker rejects all claims. Kemp is not burdened with the same baggage.
The local party has noted a “split” in support for Warnock and Abrams, which Melissa Clink, the Democratic chair in conservative Forsyth County outside of Atlanta, termed “perplexing.”
Voters who respond to Democratic volunteers knocking on doors in the neighborhood indicate “they’re thinking of voting for Kemp but also voting for Warnock,” said to Clink. Therefore, I predict some pretty intriguing splits.
Clink cited a number of reasons why Warnock outperformed Abrams. She noted that Walker is a lifelong buddy of Trump, who personally chose him to compete for the Senate, whereas Kemp has repeatedly refuted Trump’s claims that the 2020 election was rigged. “I believe that independents would strongly avoid voting for a candidate who supported Trump.”
His overwhelmingly approved legislation to strengthen the Interstate 14 corridor in the South, co-authored by far-right Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is a staple of Warnock’s stump speech. He recently announced to a crowd, “Ted Cruz and I did an amendment!” which caused a mixture of surprise and amusement. “We did, indeed.”
Warnock continued, “There is a path that runs through our humanity that is greater than partisan politics.
Warnock boasted that he “stood up to the Biden administration” to keep open a combat training readiness center in Savannah at a recent debate when Walker sought to undermine that impression and cast Warnock as a rubber stamp for Biden.
Although Warnock has been a vocal advocate in Washington for ending the Senate filibuster in order to enact federal voting rights legislation, he still chooses his moments to appeal to progressives. He praised his efforts to get Biden to forgive federal student loan debt as he stood with Morehouse College students on Monday after casting an early ballot.
Abrams had the chance to confront Kemp at the debate on Monday, and she chose to focus on a subject significant to non-white Georgian voters by asking him about his strategy for closing the “race equality gap” in contracts and purchases for “minority-owned firms.”
For Georgia’s citizens, Abrams stated, “We need a governor who truly believes in equity – racial equity, economic equity.”
Abrams came up short in the 2018 election for governor by around 55,000 votes. She became a celebrity among progressives thanks to her active voter registration drive; some attribute Democrats’ success in turning Georgia blue two years later to her efforts. Her problems this cycle have nevertheless spurred a fresh discussion about the limitations of mobilization alone and the requirement of crossover appeal to win this purple state.
“There are those who are already pretty much set in their ways, many voters. After a debate with his Republican opponent Chris West on Sunday in Atlanta, Democratic Rep. Sanford Bishop, who is running for re-election in Georgia’s most divisive House district, said: “And, of course, there is a group in the center that are still still to decide.”
According to Clink, some Georgians may have questioned Abrams’ connection to her “roots” because of her “famous status,” even though this is “completely untrue,” but perceptions do matter. Additionally, she said that sexism was a contributing factor: “As a woman and as a Black woman, she’s examined a whole lot more anyway. She would be subject to criticism even if she weren’t seeking the office of governor.
Democrats must continue to assure voters that Abrams would “start to impact Georgians’ lives on the very first day by extending Medicaid, something we’ve been fighting for here for years,” according to Clink.
“I think that it’s incredibly crucial for him to highlight his broad appeal,” she added of Warnock.