A new NBC News/Marist poll is the latest to raise the possibility of a runoff in the Georgia race to governor, showing both candidates hovering below the majority-vote threshold to win the contest outright.
The poll showed Brian Kemp leading Stacey Abrams 46-45 – a statistically insignificant difference within the margin of error. It has Libertarian Ted Metz at 4 percent, about twice as high as other recent polls.
A spate of surveys, including a recent poll conducted by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, also has the two rivals in a statistical tie. If no candidate tops 50 percent in the November vote, a Dec. 4 runoff between the two will be required.
That’s a daunting prospect for both candidates, who have prepared for the contest for years and formally announced early last year. But it could be a greater challenge for Abrams, as Democrats typically struggle in general-election runoff elections in Georgia.
(The last high-profile statewide race of that type in Georgia came in 2008 when Republican incumbent U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss fell just shy of the majority-vote needed to avoid a runoff against Jim Martin – and then trounced the Democrat in December.)
Neither campaign is openly talking about the possibility of a runoff, and operatives on both sides of the aisle believe that the third-party vote will be squeezed in such a polarized electorate.
Still, even marginal support for Metz could force the race into overtime if the November vote is razor-tight. And at Tuesday’s first televised debate, Metz made clear he’s happy to play the spoiler.
“This is going to be a runoff anyway,” he said. “If you’re tired of the two-party system and the two-party tyranny of the oligarchs running the planet, then a vote for me is a protest vote to show them that you are sick and tired of the same ol’ stuff.”
Gov. Nathan Deal’s call for a special legislative session the week after the election adds another wrinkle: Since he’s a statewide officer – and has refused calls to resign – Kemp would be barred from raising campaign cash during that crucial time period.
One more thing to keep in mind when parsing this poll: It had black voters at 25 percent of the likely voter sample, lower than other recent surveys. Abrams hopes to push the African-American share of the overall electorate beyond 30 percent.
- Abrams has an 84-11 lead among black voters, while Kemp has a 2-1 edge over Abrams among whites. Abrams has a double digit-lead among younger voters and leads Kemp with women 55-41.
- Kemp leads Abrams among rural voters by a 2-1 margin and men by 18 percentage points. He trails Abrams among independents 50-41.
- It’s the latest in a spate of recent surveys to show President Donald Trump’s approval ratings on the uptick, jumping from the low 40s earlier this year to 49 percent now. About 45 percent disapprove.
- About 40 percent of likely voters say they’re more apt to back a candidate who vouched for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, compared with 36 percent who say the opposite.
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism. AJC.com. Atlanta. News. Now.
Download the new AJC app. More local news, more breaking news and in-depth journalism.
With the largest team in the state, the AJC reports what’s really going on with your tax dollars and your elected officials. Subscribe today. Visit the AJC's Georgia Navigator for the latest in Georgia politics.
Your subscription to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism. Visit the AJC's Georgia Navigator for the latest in Georgia politics.