The incumbent Republican won with a stay-the-course message and modest campaign pledges that centered on his economic record, which he said has turned Georgia into a jobs magnet. Throughout the campaign, he highlighted his four decades of public experience as a contrast with Carter, a two-term senator.
Given that Deal beat back not just Carter, but an unemployment rate of 7.9 percent and higher, a 56 percent margin (with returns coming in) is stunning, and proof that Democrats have much work ahead of them.
At 10:32 p.m.: The body language in this video doesn't bespeak a team that thinks its losing:
At 10:21 p.m.: After 10 years of trying, Republicans finally got him.
The Associated Press just declared Republican Rick Allen as the victor over U.S. Rep. John Barrow, D-Augusta, the last white Democrat in Congress from the Deep South, who was seeking a fifth term. Barrow, we're told, just called Allen to concede.
Here's the statement Barrow sent over:
"This election was about how best to change the culture of Washington and end the gridlock that has paralyzed our political system. For 10 years, the people of Georgia's 12th District have given me the honor of my life to serve them. Every day, I tried to do what I thought they would want me to do. Today, they've chose new representation, and I respect that. I congratulate congressman-elect Rick Allen on his victory and will work with him to make this translation as smooth as possible."
At 10:05 p.m.: Correction: Cobb County has just called to retract its previous statement, in which a spokeswoman attested that all its votes have been counted. More votes are coming in. But renewal of a special, one-cent local option sales tax does have a 51.71 percent margin, out of 54,434 ballots cast.
At 10 p.m.: With 66% of precincts reporting, state superintendent candidate Valarie Wilson is the leading Democratic vote-getter. And she's more than 300,000 votes behind Republican Richard Woods.
At 9:55 p.m.: Even though he's losing his bid for the state Public Service Commission to Republican incumbent Doug Everett, Libertarian John Mond is having a better night than his party colleagues in the U.S. Senate and governor's races. He's polled 392,000 votes -- about 10 times the support won by Andrew Hunt in the governor's race, or Amanda Swafford in the U.S. Senate contest.
At 9:30 p.m.: Democrats Michelle Nunn and Jason Carter have a boatload of votes to pull out if they're to survive the evening, but one stat to keep in mind for the future: Both are now pulling 44 percent in the Republican bastion of Cobb County.
At 9:16 p.m.: A vote to renew Cobb County's special local option sales tax has a slim, 51 percent (1,000 vote) margin.
At 9:03 p.m.: This analysis of exit polling in Georgia's U.S. Senate race, from Ray Henry of the Associated Press , gives David Perdue 70 percent of the white vote. Michelle Nunn's target was 30 percent or better:
WOMEN: Exit polls showed Democrat Michelle Nunn held an advantage among women, winning more than half of the female vote. Nunn attacked Perdue on pocketbook issues, from supporting an equal pay bill to criticizing Perdue over a gender lawsuit filed against a company he led as its chief executive.
RACE: The racial split remains one of the starkest divides in Georgia politics. Early exit poll results showed Perdue won about 70 percent of the white electorate. Nunn appeared to win the overwhelming majority of black voters.
SENATE CONTROL: Voters were considering how ballots cast in Georgia would affect whether Republicans or Democrats control the closely divided U.S. Senate. Better than 90 percent of voters said they considered party control of the Senate important, and around three-quarters considered it very important. Perdue and Nunn were closely splitting the ballots cast by voters who considered party control important.
GLOOMY ECONOMIC OUTLOOK: Georgia has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. Just a third of voters polled said the country was moving in the right direction. About eight out of ten said they were worried about the direction of the economy in the coming year. Of those who said they were worried, nearly 60 percent reported voting for Perdue.
OBAMA: A voter's view on President Obama was a good indicator of how he or she voted in the Senate race. Nunn won more than nine out of 10 voters who approved of Obama's job performance. Perdue did almost as well among voters who disapproved.
MINIMUM WAGE: More than half of voters polled said they would support raising the minimum wage. Nunn won over about a third of those voters.
HEALTH CARE: Roughly half of Georgia voters polled said Obama's health care overhaul went too far, and better than eight in 10 reported voting for the Republican, Perdue. Around a quarter said it did not go far enough, and less than a fifth said it was about right.
The survey of 2,976 voters was conducted for AP and the television networks by Edison Research. This includes preliminary results from interviews conducted as voters left a random sample of 40 precincts statewide Tuesday, as well as 559 who voted early or absentee and were interviewed by landline or cellular telephone from Oct. 24 through Nov. 2. Results for the full sample were subject to sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points; it is higher for subgroups.
At 9:00 p.m.: Three major statewide ballot issues are sailing through. One to cap the state income tax and another to give tax breaks to the builders of private university dormitories are approaching the 75 percent mark.
At 8:55 p.m.: This could be a hard night for U.S. Rep. John Barrow, D-Augusta, the last white Democratic member of Congress from the Deep South. He's behind Republican Rick Allen in 15 of 19 counties in the 12th District, 58 to 42 percent.
At 8:45 p.m.: Secretary of State Brian Kemp says DeKalb County, the most Democratic county in the state, has begun reporting in. But Republicans David Perdue and Nathan Deal have built up a rural bulwark of 149,000 and 140,000 votes, respectively.
Sen. Johnny Isakson is hopeful that the separation he sees in early polls is a good sign that David Perdue can avoid a runoff. If not, get ready for an onslaught.
“If we’re the only runoff in the country, Georgia’s population is going to double and $100 million will be spent here,” said Isakson, adding: “It will be brutal for the people of Georgia.”
At 8:35 p.m. Former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn, Michelle's father, has arrived at his daughter's event and declared himself optimistic.
“We’ve had a really good turnout,” Nunn said. “We’ve seen great energy. I’ve been over at headquarters and everyone there, the young people are very excited.”
Asked if he given his daughter advice on how to handle election-night stress, Nunn said it wasn’t necessary.
“I don’t have to give her advice,” he said. “I learned that several months ago.”
Father said daughter is holding up really well.
“She seems to be getting stronger and stronger as we go on,” Nunn said. “It’s amazing. At this point in ’72, in my tough race, I was running on fumes.”
At 8:20 p.m.: With more than 300,000 Georgia votes counted, David Perdue is running nearly 4,000 ballots ahead of Nathan Deal, while Jason Carter is running a couple hundred ballots ahead of Michelle Nunn. So we have some interesting ballot drift.
At 8:04 p.m.: With rural counties the only ones reporting, three Democrats have snuck into the 40-percentiles: Michelle Nunn in the Senate race, Jason Carter in the gubernatorial race, and Valarie Wilson in the race for state school superintendent.
At 7:54 p.m. A boisterous crowd is flowing into the Outsider Reception at the InterContinenal in Buckhead, for Republican David Perdue.
Among them is Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Savannah, who lost to Perdue in the GOP runoff but immediately announced his support and has been out on the trail with Perdue several times.
“I feel very strongly that he’s the kind of leader we need to go to the Senate and I think he’s going to be victorious tonight,” Kingston said, adding that he feels Perdue will “eke it out” without a runoff.
As for his party’s overall fate: “We will have at least 51 Republican senators at this time tomorrow.”
"That was not a good idea. That hurt not just Michelle Nunn, but other Democrat candidates who needed to distance themselves from the party in the White House. It's not just about President Obama, but any president in his sixth year has a tough time on Election Night."
At 7:52 p.m.: Interesting ballot drop off. David Perdue is polling 2,000 more votes than Nathan Deal, Michelle Nunn is about 1,000 votes ahead of Jason Carter.
At 7:44 p.m.: A video shot by the AJC's Jennifer Brett, in which Gov. Nathan Deal explains why he'll win outright tonight:
At 7:34 p.m.: The Associated Press announces that Shelley Moore Capito, a Republican, has won the U.S. Senate seat in West Virginia -- a first pick-up for the night.
At 7:25 p.m.: A first report from the Associated Press on exit polls from Georgia has arrived:
GLOOMY ECONOMIC OUTLOOK: Georgia has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country. Just a third of voters polled said the country was moving in the right direction. Eight out of ten said they were worried about the direction of the economy in the coming year. About four in 10 said they were "very" worried. About half of voters said the economy was the most important issue facing the country.
SENATE CONTROL: Voters were considering how ballots cast in Georgia would affect whether Republicans or Democrats control the closely divided Senate. Better than 90 percent of voters said they considered party control of the Senate important, and around three-quarters considered it very important. Democrats hope to keep a slim majority in the Senate. Republicans have held a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, using that power to thwart initiatives favored by President Barack Obama, a Democrat. The GOP was hoping to win enough seats to take a majority in the Senate.
MINIMUM WAGE: More than half of voters said they would support raising the minimum wage.
HEALTH CARE: Roughly half of Georgia voters polled said Obama's health care overhaul went too far. Around a quarter said it did not go far enough, and less than a fifth said it was about right.
The survey of 2,137 voters was conducted for AP and the television networks by Edison Research. This includes preliminary results from interviews conducted as voters left a random sample of 40 precincts statewide Tuesday, as well as 559 who voted early or absentee and were interviewed by landline or cellular telephone from Oct. 24 through Nov. 2. Results for the full sample were subject to sampling error of plus or minus 4 percentage points; it is higher for subgroups.
At 7:22 p.m.: The AJC's Aaron Gould Sheinin reports thusly:
Nunn's campaign staff said not to expect the Democrat to make an appearance until after the results are known. For the moment, then, the only noticeable commotion is the throbbing bass bleeding through the partition separating Nunn's party from that of gubernatorial hopeful and fellow Democrat, Jason Carter.
At 7:18 p.m.: CNN says its exit polls put the U.S. Senate race in Georgia at 49 percent for David Perdue, 48 percent for Michelle Nunn. We've got a long night ahead.
At 7:15 p.m.: Secretary of State Brian Kemp says Screven County is the first to report. Here we go.