Since then President Bill Clinton was unable to keep Georgia in his win column during his 1996 re-election campaign, Georgia has been viewed as a reliably red, and safe GOP state. The state's congressional delegation made the shift to red and right in 1994, the Governor's office eventually fell in a surprise upset win in 2002 by Sonny Perdue, shortly followed by majority wins in the State Senate and State House. Since the middle of the 2000 decade, the Georgia GOP has controlled or held virtually all levers of power at state and federal government levels.
The 2020 election cycle offers the most realistic potential that Georgia will move to the top of Democratic Party target lists for several reasons in a changing political landscape. The close victory for the Governor's office by Governor Brian Kemp is being misread by some as placing the Georgia Democratic Party at the cusp of multiple victories. U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the GOP Republicans will be defending 23 seats, including McConnell's as well as both Georgia's Senate seats. Senator David Perdue is seeking his second term, and by January of 2020, Governor Kemp will have named another Republican as the Interim Senator to seek the seat in a November Special Election, to replace retiring Senator Johnny Isakson. Though also held on General Election day, that contest will take all-comers from both parties, and quite possibly result in a run-off contest, the first Tuesday in January of 2021.
As of the September 12 Democratic Presidential candidate debate, the primary field of candidates, following several withdrawals and shifts to other races has essentially been winnowed to 10, versus the more than two dozen a month ago. The focus will stay on what is shaping up to be a consistently top five in polling, fundraising and among party activists - former Vice-President Joe Biden, U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and Kamala Harris and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigeg. New Jersey Senator Corey Booker cracks this circle in some polls as well.
Back to our U.S. Senate contests, the GOP is defending 23 seats, while Democrats only have 11 incumbent or existing seats in contest.
If Democrats win the White House, the party will only need a net pick-up of three seats to take Senate majority, and four seats if Trump wins re-election. Georgia will be the only state in the nation, and for the first time in our state's history, with both Senate seats on the ballot at the same time.
Senator Perdue will have a real campaign and contest, but it is always difficult to oust an incumbent U.S. Senator, and the current four announced Democratic challengers combined have yet to match Perdue's fundraising or polling numbers. An essentially 'open' seat, with only an interim incumbent of less than a year, is a much easier target. Expect renewed pressure on former State House Minority Leader Stacy Abrams, to consider entering that second Senate seat contest.
The White House race, particularly with Trump as its nominee, will cause the GOP to focus its finances on retaining the White House first, with the Senate a secondary priority. Candidates and the Republican National Senatorial Committee will raise and expend dozens of millions across 34 states, and it will be quite difficult for the RNSC to be a primary funding source for two Georgia Senate contests.
Perdue, as a close ally of President Trump, and as an incumbent, will be the priority among the two. Georgia's demographic shifts, Trumps fallibility among metro area voters and the two Senate contests will move our state to the top of the target list for Team Blue pick-up.
And as Georgia voters have pretty consistently split party votes in recent elections in consistent percentages from the top to the bottom of the ballot, a close or successful U.S. Senate contest for Democrats would also have substantial down ballot impact on the Georgia State House and Senate, just as Ms. Abrams candidacy impacted dozens of other state and local races in 2018.
All this adds up to Team Blue moving in campaign staffers, non-aligned 527 PAC endorsements and dollars and a record amount of green into this once reliably red state, starting almost as soon as the ink is dry on Governor Kemp's interim U.S. Senate appointment in January. Among the biggest guaranteed winners of these contests will Georgia broadcasters who will also likely also see record political spending before the end of 2020. It's off to the races!