Politics Today

Our new sequence appears on the key counties to observe in each 2020 battleground, beginning with Georgia


For the uninitiated, Cobb County is a big suburban county to the west of town of Atlanta, casting roughly 327,000 votes in 2016. Gwinnett is a big suburban county to the northeast of town of Atlanta, casting an nearly an identical vote complete (325,000). Henry County, to the southeast of Atlanta correct, is the smallest of the three however nonetheless substantial in measurement, tallying over 98,000 votes in 2016.

These three suburban counties within the Atlanta metro space have two important issues in frequent: 1) Mitt Romney beat Barack Obama in all three counties and a pair of) Hillary Clinton narrowly defeated Donald Trump in all three as effectively. What’s extra, should you have a look at the outcomes from 2018 (taking a mean throughout all eight statewide races), Democrats did even higher than they did towards Trump in 2016!

County identify 2012 d vs. r margin 2016 d vs. r margin 2018 d vs. r margin
Cobb R + 12.5% D + 2.1% D + 6.3%
Gwinnett R + 9.2% D + 5.8% D + 11.7%
HENRY R + 3.3% D + 4.4% D + 13.9%

The trajectory right here is unmistakeable. That’s the reason though these are thought-about “swing counties,” that doesn’t essentially imply that for Democrats to win, the blue group merely wants to steer in these counties. Let’s be clear: It will likely be a nasty night time for Democrats in Georgia if Trump or the GOP Senate hopefuls have a lead in any of those three counties.

So what sort of margin would put Democrats on a glide path to victory right here? I’d say on condition that Democratic candidates misplaced within the state by a mean of three factors in 2018, and also you’d need further cushion and safety from a continued erosion in reddening rural counties, a protected metric right here could be “10/15/20.” Which is shorthand for the idea that a Democrat profitable Georgia in 2020 would in all probability need to win Cobb by at the least 10 factors, Gwinnett by at the least 15 factors, and Henry by at the least 20 factors.

However this motion is extraordinarily excellent news for the long run fortunes of the Democrats within the Peach State. Think about that in 2016, these three counties mixed for over 750,000 votes. And on condition that the handfuls of rural counties which have been reddening over the previous 20 years are nearly cashed out (the Democrats bought lower than 15% of the vote, on common, in 13 completely different counties), seeing this sort of progress in high-growth, high-population counties is heartening.


Cherokee and Forsyth counties are quickly rising counties within the north finish of the Atlanta metro space, logging sizable voter turnouts in 2016 (110,000 for Cherokee and 97,000 for Forsyth). Columbia, in contrast to the opposite counties in our examine so far, will not be within the Atlanta metro. It’s a quickly rising suburban county adjoining to Augusta, which logged in over 64,000 votes 4 years in the past.

Let there be no illusions about this: Joe Biden goes to get thumped in these three counties. Laborious. 

However margins matter! And the frequent thread between these counties is that as they’ve grown immensely over the previous decade or so, they’ve additionally develop into a bit much less pink. Nowhere close to swing counties, thoughts you, however much less intractably Republican than they had been of their pretty latest previous. Think about the motion in these pink counties:

County identify 2012 d vs. r margin 2016 d vs. r margin 2018 d vs. r margin
cherokee R + 57.5% R + 49.1% R + 47.0%
columbia R + 42.8% R + 37.1% R + 34.7%
forsyth R + 62.7% R + 46.9% R + 44.7%

Not like the swing counties listed above, the motion that was pronounced between 2012 and 2016 continued in 2018, however, alas, not on the similar tempo. However keep in mind: margins matter. Let’s look at how even marginal shifts in giant pink counties can work within the favor of the Democrats right here.

Let’s assume that each Cherokee and Forsyth counties nonetheless go to Trump by 40 factors, and Columbia County drops to a 30-point margin. That also looks like a landslide margin, and it’s. However it additionally represents a marginal achieve of over 20,000 votes for Biden. In a state the place Brian Kemp’s margin within the 2018 gubernatorial election was just below 55,000 votes, that’s almost half of the margin in three counties, and all with a shift that’s roughly what the 2012 versus 2016 shift represented.


As has been the case for all however one in all our counties on this evaluation, all three of those counties are within the Atlanta metro space, and two of them are the counties whereby town limits of Atlanta are discovered. Most of Atlanta, in fact, is in Fulton County, which by itself (out of over 150 counties within the state) accounts for over 10% of the turnout in a typical election (in 2016, 430,000 votes had been forged in Fulton County). To its instant east, DeKalb county is barely a tad smaller, registering 312,000 votes in 2016. The smallest of the three by far is Clayton County, which lies simply to the south of Fulton and DeKalb counties. It forged 92,000 votes in 2016.

Within the “growth counties,” the aim is working up the rating. All three counties have a considerable African American voter base, with DeKalb and Clayton having majority African American populations. Actually, the voter base right here leans so closely Democratic that enhancing on previous margins of victory is definitely fairly problematic for the blue group:

County identify 2012 d vs. r margin 2016 d vs. r margin 2018 d vs. r margin
CLAYTON D + 70.0% D + 70.1% D + 74.0%
DEKALB D + 56.7% D + 62.9% D + 63.7%
FULTON D + 29.7% D + 40.8% D + 40.7%

In Clayton and DeKalb, the place they lack swingier pockets of predominantly Anglo suburbs that preserve the potential Democratic margin down, it’s laborious to do higher than Democrats have already traditionally carried out. So the problem in these counties is turnout. One frequent thread between Clayton and DeKalb particularly is that each counties noticed disappointing shifts in voter turnout between 2012 and 2016, with DeKalb solely growing turnout by about 1.8%, and Clayton truly shedding about 4,000 votes from 2012. And in contrast to quite a lot of counties that noticed voter turnout slide between 2012 and 2016, Clayton County will not be dropping inhabitants—it’s estimated to have picked up about 33,000 extra residents over the course of the last decade. So a drop in voter turnout in a single county coupled with an anemic turnout progress within the different (the statewide common was just below 5%) is certainly trigger for alarm.

However there’s additionally trigger for hope. Each of them had comparably stout turnout numbers in 2018. Certainly, DeKalb truly noticed a better turnout within the midterm (roughly 313,500 voters) than within the presidential (roughly 312,500 voters), which is certainly trigger for hope. Clayton, as effectively, noticed its turnout are available at over 99% of 2016 turnout numbers. The statewide common was a sturdy 96.5% of presidential turnout (the gubernatorial race was a scorching ticket), and each these counties exceeded that.

For Fulton County, it’s a twin problem: a aim to extend turnout coupled with persuasion in suburban elements of Fulton that when had been largely Republican. The northern a part of the county remains to be fairly swingy; it’s the territory that’s a part of Lucy McBath’s sixth Congressional district. This a part of the county has, till just lately, saved the general Democratic edge in Fulton out of the stratosphere (John Kerry solely gained the county 59-40 in 2004). However these voters are turning, and if the Democrats can proceed that shift—and enhance turnout within the closely African American southern finish of the county—it may simply be the margin of victory.

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