Georgia early voting has passed 1.5M mark. Here’s what it says about the race for governor.

Long lines form at an early-voting site in Cobb County. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

Credit: � 2018 Cox Media Group.

Credit: � 2018 Cox Media Group.

Long lines form at an early-voting site in Cobb County. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

Early voting hit another milestone on Tuesday: More than 1.5 million people have already cast their ballots, more than doubling turnout from this point in the 2014 vote.

An analysis by Ryan Anderson, a data guru whose website has gained an immense following among Georgia politicos, found that a plurality of these voters – 37 percent – also voted early in 2014. Another 28 percent voted on Election Day four years ago.

But 500,000 or so early ballots – about one-third of the total – came from voters who skipped the 2014 midterm. That subcategory includes a spike in minority votes: Most of the early ballots cast by Hispanics and Asians come from voters who didn’t vote the last gubernatorial election, along with one-third of blacks.

That fits with Stacey Abrams' goal of trying to drive up "unlikely" voter turnout. She's staked her campaign on energizing the left-leaning voters who often ignore these elections to vote for her, whether because of her progressive policies, her Medicaid expansion plan or their disgust for Donald Trump.

But Republicans are buoyed by the early findings, too. While turnout in Democratic strongholds has soared, so has voter participation in GOP bastions in the outer suburbs and rural areas that Brian Kemp relies upon.

Take a look at Catoosa County, which Donald Trump won with about 80 percent two years ago. The number of early ballots there has more than tripled, to about 9,200, from 2014. And roughly 40 percent of those voters also skipped the 2014 vote.

There are similar spikes in other deep-red territory like ColumbiaCherokee, and Forsyth counties – where roughly one-in-three voters also didn't cast ballots in the last gubernatorial election.

Another early indication of huge turnout in red territory: An analysis by data guru Melanie Manning showed early-vote participation in two Georgia counties has already surpassed the entire total vote in 2014.

They are Bacon and Stephens counties – two areas that Trump won with roughly 80 percent that will certainly be in Kemp’s column. The next dozen counties nearing that threshold, too, are all of the ruby-red variety that Trump carried by two-thirds of the vote.

It's these areas where voters are relentlessly reminded of Abrams' gaffe about agriculture, where they're targeted with direct-mail from Kemp and his allies labelling the Democrat a "radical" and "extremist."

To be sure, the deep-blue urban areas have far greater voting strength, and turnout in those parts have also soared. And Abrams stands to perform well in north Atlanta suburbs that her opponent has not made central to his campaign.

But Kemp’s strategy hinges on stringing together enough of these smaller counties to overwhelm the metro Atlanta vote and buy him some cushion if the suburbs tilt farther than expected to the left.


The news of Oprah Winfrey's impending arrival ricocheted around campaign stops across Georgia.

For Stacey Abrams, the media icon's visit Thursday is a chance to target suburban voters and black women key to her campaign for governor – and counter Vice President Mike Pence's trio of stops in Dalton, Augusta and Savannah.

For Brian Kemp, his rival’s campaign appearance with Winfrey plays into the argument he’s making at stops, on TV and in a flood of advertisements: That the Democrat’s campaign is centered on big-name support from out-of-state celebrities.

He said as much at campaign stops on Tuesday, when he mocked Abrams for appearing on "The View" while he was crisscrossing north Georgia.

“It’s no surprise that she has celebrities from all over the country that are coming into campaign with her,” said Kemp after an event in Forsyth, invoking his endorsements from Gov. Nathan Deal and Pence. “We’ll take that any day of the week.”

Asked to respond to that line of attack at a Wednesday morning campaign stop at an Atlanta bagel shop, Abrams pointed out the swirl of Trump administration figures stumping for Kemp, including Pence and Lara Trump, the president’s daughter-in-law.

“I think we both believe this is a national conversation about our local state. My campaign has always been locally grounded but nationally known,” Abrams said. “If you want to look at who has the most vibrant campaign, look at who’s coming because they know that Georgia matters.”