November 2, 2017 Atlanta: Early voters cast their ballots at the Buckhead Library on Thursday, November 2, 2017, in Atlanta. If predictions for abysmal voter turnout in the Atlanta mayoral hold true, the 8-way contest will be decided by the most committed voters. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton

Letter from the editor: Welcome to battleground Georgia

We’ve been meandering toward the national political spotlight. On Wednesday, we’ll be out there in the bright lights.

The Democratic debate, scheduled to take place at Tyler Perry Studios and televised nationally, will make clear to the nation what Georgians know: our state and city could be at the center of the political universe in the 2020 election, and for many elections that follow.

Georgia was once solid ground for Democrats. But that changed as we turned toward the 21st century. Republicans have carried in every presidential vote since 1996 and every statewide vote since 2008, as Georgia became part of a solidly Republican South.

Welcome to the new political battleground.

Related: 10 things to know about the debate 

Related: The major issues in Georgia

Related: Where to find the White House hopefuls in Georgia this week

There’s no challenging the idea that Georgia will be where some of the nation’s most important political action – and spending – will occur in 2020.

The 10 Democrats who will be on stage know that. And they know that if their nominee can win in Georgia, the electoral math tilts strongly in their favor.

They know about last year’s close race for governor. They know that we’ll have two simultaneous Senate races – a situation that’s almost unheard of.

They know of the state’s changing demographics.

The Democrats once prioritized Georgia. They had their national convention here in 1988; that didn’t help Michael Dukakis, who was beaten by George H.W. Bush. Bill Clinton was the last Democrat presidential candidate to win here, in 1992.

AJC Poll: Georgia voters on the candidates and issues

Related: Voting struggles put spotlight on major elections in Georgia

Related: Georgia anti-abortion law could drive discussion at Democratic debate

The Democrats are back after largely ignoring the state during presidential elections – well, they didn’t completely ignore us. They did come here to raise campaign cash to spend elsewhere.

Now, they hope they can again secure Georgia. Of course, Republicans will have something to say about that, and the GOP will probably stage their own event even as the media glare shines on Democrats.

We hope you can use this special section to prepare for Atlanta’s time in the spotlight.

We need to get used to it.

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