AP Photo/Brynn Anderson
A person waits in line to vote in the Georgia’s primary election on Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Atlanta.

Georgia is one of only a handful of states with top-tier contests for governor and the U.S. Senate this year. The Democratic sweep in 2020 in the Peachtree State turned this red state purple and made it ground zero in the battle for the heart and soul of American politics.

Georgia, along with President Biden’s victory in Arizona, revealed new opportunities for Democrats in the Sunbelt. Democrats can cement those gains this year, while Republicans hope to reverse the results in these states.

The 2020 election year was a dark time for the GOP in Georgia. Not only did Biden win the state’s electoral votes but both Republican incumbents, Sens. David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler lost their Senate seats.

The close contests in 2020 set up another set of tight and tough midterm campaigns in 2022. Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp is in a competitive race with his Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams, who lost a close race to the Kemp in 2018. Then Democratic Sen. Rev. Raphael Warnock faces a difficult challenge from former University of Georgia football superstar Herschel Walker.

Warnock and Abrams face a hostile political climate because of Biden’s unpopularity in the state. A recent poll conducted by Eastern Carolina University (ECU) found former President Donald Trump with a 7-point lead over Biden in a potential 2024 matchup in the state.

But the GOP has its own problems. Kemp’s certification of Biden’s 2020 win, when he was Georgia secretary of State overseeing the election, made him persona non grata with Trump. The Fulton County district attorney has empaneled a grand jury to investigate a call Trump made to the Kemp asking him to “find 11,780 votes” that would overturn the presidential election results.

Meanwhile, Walker enters the race with considerable personal baggage in his race against Warnock, a Baptist pastor. Bulldog fans at the University of Georgia used to chant “Run Herschel Run” to encourage their star running back. Now Walker, with Trump’s enthusiastic endorsement, is running for the U.S. Senate.

If Democrats have any hope of retaining control of the closely divided U.S. Senate, Warnock needs to retain his seat, although he’s fighting strong political headwinds at the national level. But the race is as closely divided as the balance in the upper chamber of Congress. The ECU poll indicates the race between Warnock and Warnock is a jump ball.

Undoubtedly, Race will play a prominent role in Georgia this election cycle since both senatorial candidates, as well as Abrams, are African American. This is a definite sign of progress in a state that was once the heart of the Old Confederacy.

Pending Supreme Court decisions —expected to upend abortion rights and efforts to prevent gun violence at the state level —make the nation’s governors the last line of defense for Americans, and Georgians, who value reproductive freedom and abhor gun violence. The results will have significant impacts.

The 2022 gubernatorial campaign is a rematch of the 2018 race, when Kemp narrowly defeated Abrams, as Kemp appears to have the early advantage.

Abrams used her near miss as a springboard to national prominence. She was under consideration early in the 2020 presidential campaign as a running mate for Biden. She even appeared in an episode of “Star Trek: Discovery” as the president of United Earth. If she wins this race, she will become even more of a national figure — and a potential candidate for president of the United States. Kemp will likely use her celebrity against her and attack her for being a national liberal elite out of touch with the values of Georgians.

If any one state can claim to be a sign of things to come in the next presidential race in 2024, Georgia is that state. Don’t be surprised if both races are too close to call early on election night and get lots of airtime on the cable networks through the early hours of the next morning. Then the conversations about results there will continue all the way until Election Day in 2024.

Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. His podcast, “Deadline D.C. with Brad Bannon,” airs on Periscope TV and the Progressive Voices Network. Follow him on Twitter: @BradBannon

Tags 2020 election Biden Brian Kemp Georgia Georgia politics Herschel Walker midterm elections purple state Raphael Warnock Stacey Abrams

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