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.
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