If I had to call it right now, Brian Kemp is the new governor of Georgia. His path there should have been easier than it was, but it appears he’ll have it.
Watching the Georgia race, especially during early voting, it became clear that Republicans are not as safe in the deep south as they thought they were. Like the rust belt to Democrats, elections are usually the only time (and the worst time for) parties to find out that their permanent grip over a region is in trouble.
Stacy Abrams did something extraordinary. She got a record number of early voters out and new voters registered. The strategy almost paid off for her, too, and I suspect the only reason it didn’t result in a win is that she suppressed her own vote with all the talk and news stories of “voter suppression,” which actually had the opposite of the intended effect and convinced black voters to stay home out of a fear of hopelessness.
In Texas, we saw Ted Cruz struggle a lot more than he should have. Democrats showed up in force in Texas, and that bodes ill. Republicans eeked out a win in Florida, but it could have gone the other way. You had a Democratic victory in Doug Jones (Alabama) and John Bel Edwards (Louisiana) based largely on flawed candidates (Roy Moore and David Vitter, respectively) and Republicans simply did not turn out for them.
If Texas, Florida, and Georgia had run candidates who were more appealing to the center, those races could have flipped easily.
Democrats are making in-roads. Abrams’ strategy of pumping up new registration and pushing hard on GOTV efforts – particularly in black and minority communities – is probably a strategy that will be repeated across the south by Democrats, and it’s not impossible to see them succeeding, either.
Republicans have to be careful going forward. If Donald Trump does not adjust his personality and keep moderate Republicans on board, then it doesn’t matter how much of his base turns out. There will be consequences that could end up much worse for the GOP than last night was.