Last nights Republican runoff for the US Senate seat in Georgia provided a bit of a shocker for observers. While businessman David Perdue had come in 1st in the May primary, polling showed him consistently trailing Representative Jack Kingston, who came in second. Based on the first round of voting, the runoff was sure to be a regional battle; with Kingston in Savanna and the south fighting Perdue in Atlanta and the north. Sure enough, the final results show a stark regional split in the vote. Kingston convincingly won the south, while Perdue held the Atlanta suburbs and most of the north.
Kingston’s problem was that so much of the vote comes form the Atlanta suburbs. Kingston managed to do well in the Atlanta suburbs, often getting % in the 40s. These were stark improvements from his %s in the May primary. However, Perdue’s modest wins in that region were able to offset the crushing loses he suffered in the lower-populated southern counties.
Another issue that helped Perdue was the turnout shifts from the first round of voting. Unlike Mississippi, turnout did not increase in Georgia for the second ballot. However, the turnout drop was lower in the north and the Atlanta area (where Perdue did well) than in the south. In the north, up to 80% of the total votes cast in May were cast in the runoff (though not saying it was the exact same people). In a few counties the turnout increased.
Kingston got 25% in the first round, and as such needed to do 25% better get a majority and win. In many areas of the north, areas where he came in third or worse in May, Kingston did get more than 25% improvements in his support. Part of this could be thanks to Karen Handel, who did well in the Atlanta area in May, endorsing Kingston for the runoff. Kingston’s improvements in the North kept it close, but he fell short of his thresh-hold in central and southern Georgia. In the South, Kingston had such huge % from the first round there was limited space for him to improve. The central Georgia area (where he got 15% or 20% improvements) needed to be just a little more supportive of him.
Finally, while Kingston did make great gains in the north, Perdue made gains there as well. Perdue managed to keep Kingston’s net gains low in the Atlanta area, ensuring that Kingston would still lose the region despite his improvements. In the south and eastern coast, Perdue actually gained large %s of the vote than Kingston.
The pollsters predicted a modest Kingston win, but something always told me this race would be very close. Perdue had a base of support in North Georgia, which dominated the vote in the primary and runoff. Kingston stood a strong chance because of his incredibly strong support in the South. However, the Atlanta suburbs proved too much for the rural southern counties.