ATLANTA — Democratic candidates in the two major Georgia races are blowing the airwaves with television ads — making two distinctly different pitches to voters.
A new spot clipped by Democratic nominee for governor Stacey Abrams presents her as a “math whiz” with bold forward-thinking ideas to increase teachers’ pay, expand childcare and fund kindergarten. Another ad pledges to spend Georgia’s surplus on new middle-class stimulus and to expand affordable housing.
Meanwhile, Senator Raphael Warnock works as an independent legislator, emphasizing dual pursuits, such as limiting insulin costs, while aiming for a full six-year term. an advertisement praises his work with Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville of Alabama to protect peanut farmers. Another features testimonials from GOP-leaning voters who say they support Warnock this fall.
The ads reflect two divergent views of Democrats on how to win Georgia, a former Republican bastion that narrowly voted for President Joe Biden and two Democratic senators in the 2020 election cycle. Abrams relies heavily on mobilizing the grassroots to target disgruntled Georgians. to inspire and register and to stimulate progressive attendance. Warnock puts a greater emphasis on downtown courting, appealing to soft-spoken Republicans and center-right independents, including white college graduates in the booming Atlanta area who feel out of sync with a GOP transformed by former President Donald Trump.
As the early voting begins, polls show a remarkable split in partisan preferences: Warnock leads Republican challenger Herschel Walker by about 4 percentage points, while Abrams leaves GOP governor Brian Kemp by about 5 points.
“They are running two very different campaigns,” said an adviser to Kemp, who was given anonymity to candidly assess Democratic strategy. “It’s pretty obvious, looking at their speeches and ads and their social media.”
Abrams is “not so much in the persuasion world; she’s in the mobilization business,” said Kemp’s advisor, who attributed Warnock’s relative success in 2020 and its lead in this year’s race to his focus on “middle-of-the-road policy positions,” such as lowering the cost of prescription drugs, and not emphasizing “some of these more left-wing issues.”
A recent Quinnipiac University poll of likely voters in Georgia felt Warnock outperformed Abrams by 14 points among the independents relative to their rivals. Among the Republicans, Warnock had 7%, while Abrams had 3%. Among the Democrats, both were equally dominant.
Their mixed fortunes can also be shaped by their opponents. Walker brings a turbulent past, allegations of domestic violence and recent stories that he paid an ex-girlfriend for an abortion in 2009, which he denies. Kemp does not carry the same baggage.
Melissa Clink, the Democratic chair in conservative Forsyth County outside of Atlanta, said the local party has noted a “division” in support for Warnock and Abrams, which she called “baffling.”
Democratic volunteers knocking on doors in the area have been met by voters who say “they’re thinking about voting for Kemp, but also for Warnock,” Clink said in an interview. “So I think we’re going to see some really interesting splits.”
Clink attributed Warnock’s outperformance to Abrams to several factors. First, she said, Kemp’s rejection of Trump’s lies about a stolen 2020 election is “matter” to independents, while Walker is an old friend of Trump’s who picked him to run for Senate. “I think independents would definitely shy away from a candidate who was a Trump supporter.”
A regular part of Warnock’s stump speech is his amendment with far-right Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, to strengthen the Interstate 14 corridor in the south, which was passed unanimously in the infrastructure bill. “Ted Cruz and I made a change!” he recently told a crowd, sparking a mix of surprise and laughter. “Yes, we did.”
“There is a way through our humanity that is greater than partisan politics,” Warnock added.
During a recent debate, when Walker tried to undermine that image and paint Warnock as a rubber stamp for Biden, Warnock boasted that he was “standing up against the Biden government” for keep open a combat training center in Savannah.
Still, Warnock chooses his moments to appeal to progressives as he has become an outspoken voice in Washington for abolishing the Senate filibuster to pass federal voting rights legislation. After voting early Monday, he praised his pressure on Biden to cancel federal student loans while standing next to Morehouse College students.
During a debate Monday, Abrams had the chance to ask Kemp a question, highlighting an issue important to non-white constituencies in Georgia, asking him for his plan to close the “racial equality gap” in contracts and purchases for ” minority companies”. enterprises.”
“We need a governor who truly believes in equality — racial equality, economic equality — for the people of Georgia,” Abrams said.
In 2018, Abrams lost her bid for governor by about 55,000 votes. Her aggressive voter registration campaign made her a hero among progressives — some appreciate her efforts for the Democrats’ success painting Georgia blue two years later. But her struggles this cycle have sparked a new debate about the limits of mobilization alone and the need for crossover appeal to win this purple state.
“There are some voters – many voters – who are already pretty much fixed in their opinion. And of course there is a group in the middle that has yet to decide,” Democratic Rep. Sanford Bishop, who is being re-elected in Georgia’s most divided House district, said after a debate Sunday in Atlanta with GOP opponent Chris West.
Clink theorized that Abrams’ “celebrity status” has led some Georgians to question whether she has contact with her “roots” back home, which she says “couldn’t be further from the real truth, but unfortunately perception matters.” And she said sexism is a factor: “As a woman and as a black woman, she’s under a lot more scrutiny anyway. Even if she didn’t run for governor, she would get a negative response because she just existed.”
Clink said Democrats should keep telling voters that Abrams “was going to change the lives of Georgians from day one by expanding Medicaid, which is something we’ve been fighting for here for years.”
As for Warnock, she said, “I think it’s very important for him to emphasize his crossover appeal.”