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Capitol Recap: Metro Atlanta voters show signs of a gender gap

The political landscape is ever shifting — that’s what keeps pollsters employed.

Right now, the biggest figurative sand dunes rolling across the horizon could be older female voters.

That’s based on data supplied by Democratic operative Chris Huttman.

Huttman has been polling in state House and Senate districts where Democrats think they could pick up some seats in the Nov. 6 election. Most of them are in metro Atlanta, where Hillary Clinton did well during the 2016 presidential race.

Taking a basic question — Would you vote for a Republican or a Democrat? — Huttman broke down the responses from voters age 50 and over into a range of perspectives, comparing the results from 2016 and 2018.

The overall response (with a margin of error of roughly plus or minus 2 percentage points):

2016 — 38 percent Democrat, 57 percent Republican

2018 — 43 percent Democrat, 51 percent Republican

So, a shift of 5 points in Democrats’ favor and 6 points to the detriment of the GOP.

The needle’s swing was much wilder for women, especially those age 50 to 64 (The margin of error for the smaller group falls somewhere between plus or minus 4 to 6 points.):

2016 — 44 percent Democrat, 51 percent Republican

2018 — 54 percent Democrat; 40 percent Republican

That’s a 10-point surge for Democrats and an 11-point drop for Republicans.

Not far behind are women ages 65 and over:

2016 — 37 percent Democrat, 58 percent Republican

2018 — 44 percent Democrat, 52 percent Republican

So, a gain of 7 points for Democrats and a decline of 6 points for Republicans.

Huttman estimates that women between the ages of 50 and 64 account for about 18 percent of voters. Movement within that size of group could also move some people in and out of office.

Still not worried: A gender gap would not pose a threat to Republican U.S. Rep. Karen Handel of Roswell, says the head of GOP efforts to maintain control of the U.S. House.

U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers of Ohio called Handel “the quintessential suburban woman.”

Stivers displayed confidence that both Handel and Republican U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall of Lawrenceville will hold onto their seats in Congress.

“If (Democrats) want to spend money and try to beat some kind of index – if they think this is Vegas – then I welcome them to, but we’re going to win those races,” he said.

Supporters of the Democrats running in those two districts think Stivers is bluffing.

Everytown for Gun Safety, which is connected to billionaire Michael Bloomberg, recently announced that the race in Handel’s 6th Congressional District is one of 15 where it will drop a combined $5 million to pay for advertising. The beneficiary would be Democrat Lucy McBath, a former spokeswoman for the gun control group who lost a son to gun violence in a dispute over music. The group also contributed $1 million to McBath during the primary stage of the campaign.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee recently pumped up its support for Woodall’s opponent, Georgia State University professor Carolyn Bourdeaux.

Stivers said Woodall has “done a great job reaching out into nontraditional Republican communities” in the 7th Congressional District, rooted in Forsyth and Gwinnett counties. Gwinnett, especially, has undergone substantial change demographically in what had once been among the GOP’s most reliable sources of votes in the state.

That gender gap is part of the reason Democrats are hopeful in the 6th and 7th districts as they focus on suburban women who appear to be less supportive of President Donald Trump.

On the campaign trail, Handel and Woodall have tried to turn the focus away from Trump and toward their own records on issues such as their votes to combat human trafficking and opioid addiction, and to support tax cuts.

Stivers said he expects the tax cuts to be a “closing argument” for many Republicans this year.

His Democratic counterpart, however, said his party plans to campaign in wealthy suburban districts like the 6th and 7th against the federal tax legislation that Handel and Woodall backed.

In an interview earlier this month, U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, Stivers’ Democratic counterpart, said his party plans to campaign against the tax law in wealthy suburban districts like Georgia’s 6th and 7th.

“I believe that you’re going to see the tax debate talked about quite a bit in this district,” Lujan said of the 6th, “and it’s not going to be in a way where Karen Handel is very proud of the fact that she voted to increase costs on homeowners.”

Handel and health care: Perhaps as an appeal to those suburban female voters, Handel is using her second television ad to focus on a health care issue.

It’s not Obamacare.

She highlights her support for a law designed to give terminally ill patients greater access to experimental drugs, better known as “right to try.”

The ad focuses on a story about Handel’s younger sister.

“A revolutionary surgery saved her life,” Handel says in the ad. “But all too often government red tape blocks lifesaving treatments while loved ones suffer.”

Congress passed the law in May allowing patients with life-threatening conditions to request experimental medication from drugmakers, even if the Food and Drug Administration has not approved the treatment.

The measure drew opposition from patient groups and some former FDA commissioners, who warned it could expose patients to potentially unsafe therapies. Supporters say it provides hope to vulnerable patients by giving them more control over their health care decisions.

The Senate approved it in a unanimous vote, but in the House, the bill passed on a mainly party-line vote.

The ad makes no mention of Handel’s opponent, McBath.

McBath frequently tells her own health care story, a battle with breast cancer.

And she also has made her support of Obamacare a high-priority issue in her campaign.

Target assessment: David Worley, a longtime Democratic activist, is certain it was a Republican organization that recently polled him, he’s just not sure which one.

What seems to be clear are the topics of upcoming GOP ads in the governor’s race.

There was a question about whom do you favor: Democrat Stacey Abrams or Republican Brian Kemp?

Then came “issue” questions, such as these:

  • “Do you favor or oppose abolishing cash bail so that criminals go free before their conviction?”
  • “Do you favor or oppose allowing undocumented immigrants to receive all government benefits and vote in elections?”

Kemp seized on the first of those issues in a tweet Wednesday, saying that Abrams’ plan to eliminate cash bail would “flood our streets with criminals and undermine public safety.”

He linked to a WABE story on Atlanta’s bail overhaul.

“Early numbers show the rate of people failing to return to court after being released without bail has doubled over the past year,” the story says. “But legal and community advocates say there are a few reasons the data on offer are flawed.

“It’s been six months since Atlanta implemented an ordinance aimed at eliminating bail for a range of nonviolent traffic and nuisance offenses. But less than one month after it passed, a massive ransomware attack hit the city, which has hurt data collection.”

Stop the stopgaps, Part II: The U.S. House voted 361-61 this past week to approve an $855 billion spending bill that provides yearlong funding to the Pentagon; the Departments of Education, Health and Human Services. and Labor; and various other government agencies.

U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, R-Monroe, was one of the 61 who opposed.

He made a case similar to that of Georgia U.S. Sen. David Perdue when he voted against the Senate version, saying that an end must come to the heavy reliance on stopgap measures to the detriment of the traditional appropriations process.

“This is no way to run the government and it has to stop,” Hice said. “This perpetual cycle is an unfortunate testament to a dysfunctional budget process that continues to drive our national debt in the wrong direction while ceding on conservative priorities, including pro-life initiatives and the border wall.”

Candidates, endorsements, etc.: 

— Abrams traveled to New York to trawl for cash while attending a fundraiser on billionaire Barry Diller’s yacht. Before that, she met with Bloomberg and dined on cookies with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

— Singer John Legend will host a fundraising concert on Oct. 2 to support Abrams. Tickets start at $100.

— The National Rifle Association got behind Kemp's bid for governor after supporting his opponent in the July GOP runoff, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle.

— Donald Trump Jr. and former Fox News figure Kimberly Guilfoyle will speak Oct. 9 at the University of Georgia.

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