Friday, June 25

Georgia Is a New Political Battleground

Until the 1970s, Georgia was virtually a one-party state, with conservative Democrats dominant. But as conservative voters moved en masse to the Republican Party, Democrats were left concentrated in places like the city of Atlanta, adjacent and urbane Decatur, and smaller cities with significant African-American populations.

In the last few years, however, distaste for Trumpism has spread and demographic change has exploded, giving Democrats new strength in the vote-rich northern suburbs of Atlanta — like Cobb and Gwinnett Counties, which were once bastions of Republican power.

Hillary Clinton carried Cobb and Gwinnett even as she lost the state in 2016. This year, Mr. Biden won them again. And he added to her margin in the state, especially in the counties that are home to Georgia’s most important second-tier cities — Augusta, Columbus, Macon, Savannah and Athens.

In recent months, the pandemic has slowed the Georgia economy, with unemployment rising to 6.4 percent in September from 5.7 percent in August. Covid-19 cases are increasing too; over the past week, each day has averaged 2,242 new cases, an increase of 42 percent from the average two weeks earlier.

A new generation of Democratic candidates has left behind the fiscal and social conservatism of its forefathers to embrace a rising demographic coalition of Black voters, college-educated suburban women and a more politically engaged younger generation.

Even if Mr. Biden’s victory was ultimately delivered by Northern industrial states like Pennsylvania, his slim margin in Georgia points to the future of the Democratic Party, which could come into clearer view in the Senate runoffs.

Republicans will try to stop Democratic momentum, hoping that Mr. Biden’s strong performance here was more about Mr. Trump’s divisiveness than the G.O.P.’s loosening grip on the dynamic South. For Democrats, winning both seats would leave the Senate at a 50-50 split, with the vice president, Kamala Harris, the tiebreaker.

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