Stacey Abrams would have Democrats believe Georgia is a serious swing state in 2020. The data is not there to believe this. Facts matter.
In 2018, Democrats came within 55,000 votes of taking the Georgia Governor’s mansion, closer than they did in 2014, when they lost it by about 200,000 votes.
That is impressive. Except there are some key details missing from the narrative including two important numbers: 985,535 and 45,722.
In 2014, the state saw a 50% participation rate. 2018 saw a 61% participation rate. For perspective, however, Georgia saw a 72% participation rate in 2012 for Obama v. Romney and a 76% participation rate in 2016 with Trump v. Clinton.
Most notably, the number of Democrats increased from 2016 to 2018. It was the GOP that declined. They did not vote Abrams. They behaved as they always do in an off year election. They stayed home. Republican voters typically do not vote at such a high rate in midterm elections.
Now, let us add a bit more data.
Abrams was able to generate 45,722 more voters in 2018 than Hillary Clinton did in 2016. But what is missing is that Georgia saw an Abrams led voter registration effort of 985,535 voters. In other words, assuming some old voters fell off and some new showed up, most likely less than 10% actually mattered.
In other words, while the Abrams camp blew out voter registration goals, it most likely did not translate into a massive surge and, to the extent it might have, other Democrats either sat it out or voted for Kemp.
If one extrapolates the 110,000 Republican deficit between 2016 and 2018, one sees that the 2020 Republican turnout will improve. Even with a surge of new Democrats, the GOP can and actually will increase too.
In 2008, Republicans had 2,048,759 votes; in 2012, the GOP had 2,078,688; and in 2016, the GOP had 2,089,104. Compare those to the 2018 gubernatorial turnout for the GOP, which had only 1,978,408 votes.
In 2008, Democrats had 1,844,123 votes; in 2012, Democrats had 1,773,827 votes; in 2016, Democrats had 1,877,963 votes. In 2018, the Democrats had 1,923,685 votes.
But wait… there’s more. In 2016, 125,306 people voted for for Gary Johnson as a third party candidate when the Libertarian in Georgia typically gets around 35,000 votes, plus or minus about 10,000.
Additionally, in 2016, a full 73,032 people refused to vote in the Presidential race. One can easily conclude 75,000 of the Libertarian protest vote in 2016 is Republican and probably half of those who refused to vote are Republican. In fact, Johnny Isakson got 46,702 more votes than Donald Trump got in Georgia and the Libertarian Senate candidate also got more than Gary Johnson. Those voters may still sit it out with Trump, but that does not mean they will sit out other races. 2016 shows they actually will show up and vote for the Republican Senate candidates.
In other words, there is a conservative/libertarian protest vote out there. When it matters, they wind up voting GOP. You don’t have to believe me. The data shows it. In 2014, Libertarians turned out for David Perdue against Michelle Nunn, handing him close to 20,000 votes that then went to the Libertarian in the gubernatorial vote that was next on that ballot.
Trump, Perdue, and a new person will all be running in 2020. The data suggests Republicans will turn out at a presidential level, that level will be higher than the Democrat level, and much of the talk about Abrams’ voter registration effort is nonsense. She boosted voter registration by close to 1 million new voters and only gained about 45,000 people willing to actually vote from that.
What Abrams is trying to do is not win Georgia for the Democrats, but lure them in to lay the ground work for her 2022 rematch against Kemp. It is smart on her part, but it would be foolish of Democrats to listen. They will though. Abrams has perfectly tapped into the strain of white guilt in Democrats who poured resources into Texas to help Beto at Abrams expense in Georgia and Gillum in Florida. These people have convinced themselves they backed Beto because he was white and now they’ll make up for it by wasting their money in Georgia.