So much for a resurgent Democratic Party in Georgia.
Or that’s the dominating political narrative in the Peach State following a run of Republican victories in Tuesday’s midterm election.
Name-brand recognition and millions in fundraising couldn’t propel Democrats Jason Carter and Michelle Nunn past their conservative counterparts, Gov. Nathan Deal and former Dollar General CEO David Perdue.
Each won 53 percent of the vote statewide to 45 percent for Carter and Nunn. Perdue got 79.39 percent of the vote in Hall County to Nunn’s 18.09 percent, while Deal got 78.51 percent to Carter’s 18.35 percent.
Despite predictions the governor and U.S. Senate races would be as competitive as any in the state in years — and plenty of predictions about runoffs — Democrats showed only small gains across a statewide electorate that, for now, remains heavily tilted on the side of the GOP.
Voter demographics explain a lot about how these races were decided, said Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia, and they simply aren’t yet in Democrats’ favor.
For example, most voters 45 and older cast ballots for Perdue over Nunn, according to exit polls conducted by Edison Research.
This may not seem surprising. But it matters a great deal when this age demographic accounts for 64 percent of all voters in Georgia.
While Nunn captured more women, racial minority and younger voters in the Senate race, it was not enough to account for Perdue’s success with white voters, who make up 64 percent of the electorate in the state.
Three in four white voters cast ballots for the Republican businessman.
Political moderates also broke for Nunn, but conservatives, who account for 42 percent of all voters, turned out in force for Perdue.
Perdue did slightly better with voters who reported having a college education and with voters who have only a high school diploma, while Nunn garnered more support from individuals making less than $50,000 annually.
These figures are similar for the governor’s race, though the gap is smaller in most cases.
Beyond these breakdowns, Democrats also suffered from the fact that Libertarian candidates received only about 2 percent of the vote in these races, less than in recent election cycles.
Bullock said most Libertarian-inclined voters appear to have peeled off toward Perdue’s and Deal’s camps.
But Bullock said there is still a silver lining for Georgia Democrats.
Carter and Nunn fared better than other party candidates much of the last decade, he said, and in many ways the party has a solid foundation to compete in 2016 and beyond.
That’s just the takeaway Frank Lock, chairman of the Hall County Democratic Party, said he had after Tuesday’s results were in.
In fact, Lock said he’s already looking out to 2019 and 2020. He expects the Democrats’ base to be stronger then as voter demographics shift.
For now, Republicans can’t bask in the glow of victory for too long.
Kris Yardley, chairman of the Hall County Republican Party, said this week’s victories are signs of success for the GOP’s brand and message.
But the American electorate has been volatile in recent years, and with a politically divided White House and Congress now prevailing, Yardley said Republicans must continue diversifying their brand to counter changes in voter demographics.