Joe Biden pulled in front of President Donald Trump in Georgia on Friday, setting the stage for him to be the first Democrat to win Georgia since 1992.
Biden leads with only 1,096 votes out of a total of 4.9 million votes, with at least 8,000 votes remaining. The margin is so tight that many news organizations, including BuzzFeed News, don’t predict a winner. A recount could possibly bring the state back to Trump.
Still, the fact that Biden advanced in a Republican stronghold in the deep south is a great achievement. And a victory in Georgia would bring Biden’s electoral college to 269 – just one vote less than the 270 needed to win the presidency. In that case, any of the three swing states still in play – Arizona, Nevada, and Pennsylvania – would catapult Biden into the White House.
In Georgia and throughout the South and Southwest, the Democrats have been working for years to translate the states’ diversifying electorate into a new path to 270 votes in the electoral college.
Early results were way ahead of Trump when votes came in from rural Georgia. But Biden prevailed with strong support from absentee votes from cities like Atlanta and Savannah and their suburbs.
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Trump won the state by 5 percentage points in 2016, compared to Republican Mitt Romney’s 8-point lead in 2012. Democrats hoped this would finally be the year they closed that void. Republicans once garnered huge numbers of votes in the suburbs of Atlanta, but the majority of those regions have not gone white in recent years, and Biden has made big wins in those elections there.
Biden’s breakthrough also comes despite the concerted efforts of Republicans to suppress the votes of democratically-minded voters.
“Every year after the Republicans took over the legislature in 2004, there was one or more new laws that made voting difficult,” Vincent Fort, a former Democratic state senator who represented parts of Atlanta, told BuzzFeed News. “The bottom line is that Republicans are losing the demographic game. They know that the only way they can win, because they are not going to try to diversify their party, is to suppress votes. “
But the Democrats have also worked to increase their share of the electorate. After narrowly losing her bid to become governor of Georgia in 2018, Stacey Abrams invested her energies in registering people to vote. She has said that more than 800,000 new voters have been registered in the state since 2018.
Georgia’s electoral roll looked very different in the 2020 elections than it did in 2016. The percentage of registered voters who are white has fallen from 62% to 59% in the past four years, and nearly a third of the state’s electorate is now under 35 years old.