The Georgia election model works…but only in Georgia.

Photo by Kyle Sudu on Unsplash

As Democrats start to celebrate their wins in both Georgia US Senate races (thus taking control of the US Senate), many Democrats are asking themselves how they can replicate this successful electoral model in other states? With a lot of money and organization, surely this model can be used in other states.

Unfortunately, it’s not likely.

Georgia, like most states, has its own unique demographics and geography which makes this model being replicated very unlikely. There is a chance that some parts of it can work in other states, but doing a “copy/paste” to neighboring states will not do the trick.

So, what makes Georgia so unique, and why can’t this model be replicated?

1. Atlanta and its suburbs is an unchallenged metropolitan area.

There’s no doubt about it, Atlanta is the only major metropolitan hub in Georgia. There are no other regions in the state that can compete with the Atlanta metropolitan area. A lot of white suburbs in neighboring counties have added to the Democratic totals, with many of these voters either being transplants from the north, or younger, more progressive voters. As a result, places like Marietta are no longer the home of Newt Gingrich, but a liberal bastion. Therefore, the Atlanta metro area is more like the Chicagoland area and the “collar counties” than anything we see in the south.

This strong urban/suburban combination without any competition elsewhere in the state doesn’t exist in any other southern state. Even in a state like Arkansas, where Little Rock is the unchallenged urban center of the state, there is a lack of any sprawling suburbs that would be a natural home for left-leaning suburban voters. The same can be said for Alabama, Louisiana, and (possibly) Tennessee.

2. Exurbs have less influence.

With a strong centralized suburban vote, exurbs’ influence on the overall vote is diluted. This is why the Georgia model couldn’t be implemented in Florida. While Florida has a lot of suburban voters (though not all in one geographical area), it is the exurbs that are having an increasing influence on elections in that state. Counties like Pasco, Lake, and Flagler now have more of an influence on elections, thus offsetting any gains made in Seminole or Pinellas.

Many of these exurbs usually lean Republican, with varying degrees of conservative support. While exurb counties in Georgia, like Cherokee and Forsyth, are strongly Republican, their influence in the overall state total is offset by small, Democratic-leaning urban areas, like Savannah, Macon and Augusta. This increases the influence of the suburbs. But in Florida, there are very few suburban or “offsetting” counties (like Bibb, Chatham, and Richmond). As a result, the exurbs have more influence in Florida.

3. Rural black voters

When most casual observers think of black voters, they automatically think of urban voters, which is short-sighted. However, in many southern states, Democratic success is usually a result of rural black voters. Rural black voters is why Bill Clinton won the state in 1992.

These voters tend to be more socially conservative, but are still fiercely Democratic voters. They also provide Democrats with an extra cushion that they need so that they can target other voters throughout the state. If rural black voters didn’t exist in Georgia, then both Republicans would have won yesterday.

Some southern states do have a large number of rural black voters. Alabama, Mississippi and South Carolina are similar to Georgia in the sense. However, all of these states lack any kind of strong liberal suburban vote, making Democrats rely only on urban and rural black voters.

This is also what sets Georgia apart from states like Michigan. In Michigan, the Detroit metropolitan area is predominant in the state, just like Atlanta. The Detroit area also has some decent left-leaning suburbs. However, there is a lack of rural black voters in Michigan. Therefore, Michigan Democrats need to focus more on winning white working-class voters in places like Macomb County, which requires a totally different campaign strategy.

If there is anything that can be taken from Georgia, it’s that organization matters. Stacey Abrams and the organizations around her have been able to mobilize the Democratic vote in all of these key areas. In the end, organization was the key to these victories. Grassroots politics is easily alive an well.

As far as the Georgia Model, we can’t really implement it anywhere else. It only fits in Georgia. I might work in North Carolina, but that’s about it. It can’t work in Florida, Virginia, Michigan or Ohio. It’s unique, and Georgia Democrats and left-leaning organizations deserve the credit. Remember, all politics is local.

PhD candidate, focusing on elections and partisanship in the US and Canada. Previously, worked in Democratic politics for 28 years. Twitter: @danumbersguy

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