It wasn’t absentee ballots in populous Fulton or DeKalb counties that pushed Joe Biden beyond President Donald Trump in Georgia, nor was it one of the newly minted Democratic northern suburbs.
It was Clayton, the south metro county that’s also the bluest bastion in the state, that provided the decisive votes. The county long represented in Congress by U.S. Rep. John Lewis, the late civil rights icon who was one of the most vocal critics of Trump.
And for four hours, Georgia politicos were fixated on the slow but steady tallying of absentee ballots in a cramped office, slowly whittling the vote gap between Trump and Biden from 2,497 to 1,902 to 1,797 to 665 to 466.
A few weeks ago, Democrats were antsy about turnout in Clayton, which lagged behind some metro counties. As Friday dawned, Biden supporters celebrated each batch of absentee ballots -- watching every detail of the tally meticulously reported by Robin Kemp of the Clayton Crescent.
Biden’s erasure of Trump’s once-formidable lead in Georgia doesn’t guarantee him the state’s 16 electoral votes. With the contest so close, no national outlet will likely project a winner in Georgia until more of the absentee, provisional and other votes are tallied. And Trump could reclaim the lead.
But top Democrats exuded confidence about their slim lead in Georgia, particularly with a trove of absentee ballots in left-leaning Gwinnett County set to be added to the tally on Friday. And they were keen to highlight the symbolism of Clayton’s role in giving Biden the crucial boost.
Though it’s often overlooked, Clayton is the most Democratic county in Georgia, even surpassing the deep-blue bastion of DeKalb in its vote percentage. In 2018, Stacey Abrams carried the county by 88% of the vote; she captured DeKalb with 83% of the tally.
Party figures also brought up Trump’s 2017 attack on Lewis' “crime-infested” and “horrible” district, which stretches across parts of Clayton, DeKalb and Fulton. Clayton’s role in his possible defeat in Georgia, they said, was a measure of revenge.
“I love the idea that Clayton County could put Biden over in GA,” tweeted former U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill. “That’s John Lewis' district. He would do one of his trademark happy dances in heaven. Symmetry.”