2020 Election: Both Parties Look at “the Numbers”

Phil Kent

Thursday, November 21st, 2019

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With another Democratic party presidential debate being held this week at the Tyler Perry Studios in Atlanta, focus naturally turns to Georgia and its importance in the 2020 election cycle. Is Georgia a “swing state” up for grabs? Both parties are “doing the math” after looking at turnout numbers to answer that question.

In the meantime, historic amounts of money will be pouring into Georgia for the presidential race as well as the two U.S. Senate races that will also be on the November general election ballot.

Let’s look at those numbers.

According to the Secretary of State’s office, last November Georgia had about 6.4 million active registered voters. Of that total 30 percent were black, 54 percent white, 2 percent Asian, 3 percent Hispanic and 11 percent “others” (such as multiracial or no race listed). The governor’s race drew just over 3.9 million votes. So even in that record-shattering turnout year, a whopping 2.5 million registered Georgians did not vote. (Turnout was 61 percent statewide).

The Atlanta Journal Constitution, in conjunction with the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs, last week released a presidential match up poll. But here’s a question about that poll asked by political observers: Did the surveys (which interviewed registered voters rather than likely voters) match the overall composition of the electorate last November? In other words, the racial percentages in terms of turnout did not match the racial percentages in terms of registered voters.

According to the Secretary of State’s office, of the 3.9-plus million who voted last November 29 percent were black, 59 percent white, 2 percent Asian, 2 percent Hispanic and “everyone else” totaled 8 percent. Thus, the white percentage of the November general election last year—59 percent—was 5 points higher than their registration percentage (54 percent). This indicates the white turnout rate (percentage of whites showing up) was higher than the black turnout rate (again, measuring rate within each group, not overall percentage of electorate).

Granted, Georgia is more politically competitive than it was 10 years ago. President Donald Trump won the state by a close 5 points in 2016 and Gov. Brian Kemp won the office by about a point and a half last year. But isn’t it a stretch to say that Trump would lose the state by 5 or 6 points or more to former Democrat Vice President Joe Biden, as the AJC/UGA poll claimed? The numbers don’t indicate the state would change that quickly.

Trump will lose metro Atlanta but will win the rest of the state. The key to this victory is that his margin outside the Atlanta area must exceed his loss in metro Atlanta. Last year Kemp lost metropolitan Atlanta (now 29 counties) by 14 points but won the rest of the state by 24 points. Trump and the two GOP U.S. Senate candidates will seek to repeat that win, while hoping to claw back some suburban support that was lost in 2018.

Whether that formula for success can be repeated in 2022, however, depends on “the numbers” and demographic change.