ATLANTA — The Democratic candidates in Georgia’s two flagship races are bombarding the airwaves with TV ads — and making two starkly different pitches to voters.
A new spot cut by Stacey Abrams, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, casts her as a “have mathwith bold progressive ideas to raise teacher salaries, expand child care and fund preschool. another ad pledges to use Georgia’s surplus for new middle-class stimulus checks and to expand affordable housing.
Meanwhile, Senator Raphael Warnock is portraying himself as an independent-minded lawmaker and highlighting bipartisan activities such as capping insulin costs as he seeks a full six-year term. An announcement touts his work with Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville of Alabama to protect peanut farmers. Another features testimonials from pro-GOP voters who say they are supporting Warnock this fall.
The ads reflect two divergent views by Democrats on how to win Georgia, a former Republican stronghold who narrowly voted for President Joe Biden and two Democratic senators in the 2020 election cycle. Abrams relies heavily on the mobilization of grassroots, aimed at inspiring and registering disgruntled Georgians and increasing progressive participation. Warnock places greater emphasis on courting the center, appealing to soft Republicans and center-right independents, including white college graduates in the booming Atlanta area who feel out of step with a GOP transformed by former President Donald Trump.
Going into early voting, polling averages show a noticeable split in party preferences: Warnock leads Republican challenger Herschel Walker by about 4 percentage points, while Abrams trails GOP Gov. Brian Kemp by about 5 points.
“They’re running two very different campaigns,” said an adviser to Kemp, who spoke on condition of anonymity to candidly assess the Democratic strategy. “It’s pretty obvious, looking at their speeches, their ads and their social media.”
Abrams “is not so much in the business of persuasion; it’s in the realm of mobilization,” the Kemp adviser said, attributing Warnock’s relative success in 2020 and his lead in this year’s race to his focus on “intermediate policy positions,” like cost cutting. prescription drugs, and not focusing on “some of these more left-leaning issues.”
A recent Quinnipiac University Poll likely voters in Georgia found Warnock outperforming Abrams by 14 points among independents over their rivals. Among Republicans, Warnock had 7%, while Abrams had 3%. Among Democrats, the two were equally dominant.
Their mixed fortunes can also be shaped by their adversaries. Walker brings a tumultuous past, domestic violence allegations and recent stories that he paid an ex-girlfriend to have an abortion in 2009, which he denies. Kemp does not carry the same baggage.
Melissa Clink, the Democratic chairwoman of conservative Forsyth County outside Atlanta, said the local party had noticed a “division” in support for Warnock and Abrams, which she called “puzzling.”
The Democratic volunteers knocking on doors in the area were greeted by voters who said “they’re considering voting for Kemp but also considering voting for Warnock,” Clink said in an interview. “So I think we’re going to see some really interesting splits.”
Clink attributed Warnock’s Abrams outperformance to several factors. On the one hand, she said, Kemp’s rejection of Trump’s lies about a stolen 2020 election “matters” for independents, while Walker is a longtime friend of Trump, who picked him. to run for the Senate. “I think independents would definitely turn away from a candidate who was a Trump supporter.”
Part of Warnock’s speech is his amendment with far-right Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, to strengthen the Interstate 14 corridor in the South, which was passed unanimously in the Infrastructure Act. . “Ted Cruz and I made an amendment!” he recently told a crowd, prompting a mixture of surprise and laughter. “Yes.”
“There is a road that runs through our humanity that is bigger than partisan politics,” Warnock added.
In a recent debate, when Walker sought to undermine that image and paint Warnock as a rubber stamp for Biden, Warnock bragged about “standing up to the Biden administration” for keep open a combat training readiness center in Savannah.
Still, Warnock picks his moments to appeal to progressives, having become an outspoken voice in Washington for abolishing Senate filibuster to pass federal suffrage legislation. After voting early Monday, he touted his pressure on Biden to cancel federal student loan debt as he stood with students at Morehouse College.
During a debate on Monday, Abrams had the opportunity to ask Kemp a question, and she pointed to an important issue for non-white Georgia constituencies, asking his plan to close the “racial equity gap” in contracts and purchase for “minority owners”. companies.”
“We need a governor who actually believes in fairness – racial fairness, economic fairness – for the people of Georgia,” Abrams said.
In 2018, Abrams lost his bid for governor by an estimated 55,000 votes. Her aggressive voter registration campaign made her a hero among progressives — some credit her efforts for the Democrats’ successes in painting Georgia blue two years later. Yet his struggles this cycle have sparked a new debate about the limits of mobilization alone and the need for cross-calling to win that purple state.
“There are voters – many voters – who are already pretty much fixed in their opinions. And, of course, there’s a group in the middle that hasn’t decided yet,” said Democratic Rep. Sanford Bishop, who faces re-election in Georgia’s most divided House district, after a debate on Sunday. in Atlanta with GOP opponent Chris West. .
Clink speculated that Abrams’ “celebrity status” may have caused some Georgians to wonder if she was in touch with her “roots” back home, which she says “couldn’t be. further from the truth, but, unfortunately, perception matters”. And she said sexism is a factor: “As a woman and as a black woman, she gets a lot more scrutiny anyway. Even if she did not run for governor, she would face backlash for simply existing.
Clink said Democrats need to keep telling voters that Abrams “would start changing the lives of Georgians from day one by expanding Medicaid, something we’ve been fighting for here for years.”
As for Warnock, she said: “I think it’s really important for him to emphasize his crossover appeal.”