Undecided votes key to Georgia’s tight races

Alex Solomon is still researching where the candidates stand on the issues. Joseph McGowan has selected his gubernatorial candidate, but is still undecided on his pick for U.S. Senate. And, lifetime Democrat Ray Perry is thinking he may vote Republican this time around.

In Georgia the races for the top offices, particularly governor and U.S. Senate, are neck and neck. That has far-reaching implications and has placed the Peach State in the national spotlight.

Voters like Solomon, McGowan and Perry could make all the difference come Election Day.

A mix of local polls on the Georgia races show between 3 percent and 9 percent of likely voters surveyed as being undecided. With early voting underway and Election Day less than three weeks away, candidates are targeting these voters, spending millions of dollars on advertising.

“This is the group the commercial ads are directed to. This group tends to wait until the last minute to make up their minds, or don’t have enough information to make a decision,” said Andra Gillespie, a political science professor at Emory University. “You try to appeal to them based on their perceived preferences and issues that are likely to grab their attention.”

Campaign ploys like Democrats trying to tie Republicans to pay inequity, or Republicans trying to tie Democrats to President Barack Obama and his low approval ratings have become standard fare in the run-up to Nov. 4.

Democratic Senate candidate Michelle Nunn’s ads about her Republican opponent David Perdue’s history of outsourcing jobs while heading up private-sector companies made the difference for Marion Tharpe.

Tharpe, 61, was undecided when she participated last month in a poll conducted for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Since then she’s been watching a lot of television ads. Tharpe, an Albany resident who identifies herself as an Independent, didn’t hear much about that issue in the primary, she said.

“I didn’t know about (Perdue) taking jobs out of the country,” she said. “It was brought out later and made my decision clearer.”

What Ray Perry has seen and heard in ads and news coverage could cause the lifelong Democrat — who voted for Democratic candidates in the May primary election — to vote Republican in November.

“The Democrats now have changed,” he said. “They are trying to tear the old system down and start a new one and I’m not with that.”

Perry, 38, who lives in Conyers and cares for a sick mother, also blames the Democrats for some of the difficulties that seniors face.

“They can’t get some of the things like medicine and treatment that they used to get,” he said. “They can’t afford it, and I kind of blame Obamacare for that.”

Mableton resident Joseph McGowan’s elderly parents live with him in Mableton, so he sees lots of political ads. Like Tharpe, the ads against Perdue about his corporate outsourcing are “concerning” for McGowan.

He’s still undecided about his Senate choice, but is leaning toward Nunn. “I don’t get a great sense about Perdue other than he wants to be a senator,” McGowan, 37, said. “I don’t know if that is the spirit of public service that I want to see in a candidate.”

Traditional early voter Alex Solomon is still undecided on her votes for Senate and governor. The Fayetteville resident expects to break her advanced voting streak this time and cast her ballot on Election Day.

Solomon usually leans Democratic, and voted that way in the primary election. “I’m still looking at what each candidate represents on education, equality and gun control,” Solomon, 24, said. “I don’t want to be just influenced by the commercials.”

There is always a portion of the voting population who are late to choose a candidate. But they are playing an integral role this year in places, like Georgia, with competitive Senate races, Gillespie said. As the election gets closer, she expects the number of undecided voters to shrink.

The thing to remember, she said, “by Nov. 4, they are not undecided anymore.”

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