DECATUR, Georgia – President Trump has staked his re-election on a very specific vision of the American suburb: a 2020 Mayfield edition of “Leave It to Beaver” in which residents are white, feel minorities, and prioritize their own -be economical on all other concerns.
The bet was very short. Mr. Trump has lost ground with suburban voters across the country. And particularly in Georgia, where rapidly changing demographics have made it the most racially diverse political battleground in the country, his speech has been at odds with reality.
From the inner suburbs surrounding Atlanta and stretching to traditionally conservative suburbs, Democrats have benefited from two big changes: black, Latin American and Asian residents moving to formerly white communities and an increase in the number of moderates and white conservatives, college graduates on Mr. Trump.
These factors helped President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. become the first Democrat to win Georgia since 1992. And the Senate second-round elections in January will test whether those Biden voters supported his platform or simply did. sought to remove a single holder that divides.
Although Mr. Trump is not on the ballot next month, he is very involved in the race and did not moderate his message despite his criticism at the polls. The hope is, to some extent, that the ground that failed with suburban voters last month will work when Democratic Senate control is on the line.
“Very simply, you will decide whether your children will grow up in a socialist country or whether they will grow up in a free country,” Trump told the crowd at a rally on Saturday in Valdosta, Georgia. “And I will tell you this, socialist is just the beginning for these people. These people want to go beyond socialism. They want to enter into a form of communist government.
Mr. Trump was campaigning on behalf of Republican Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, who each have distinct political markings that could pose a challenge for Democrats. It’s a challenge Democrats seek to overcome, especially among suburban voters, by keeping Mr. Trump front and center.
Jon Ossoff, the Democratic candidate who finished about two percentage points behind Mr Perdue, who sent their race to the second round, argues this case at almost every campaign stoppage: If the Senate remains in Republicans’ hands, it will block the change Georgia voted for when it elected Mr. Biden.
Carolyn Bourdeaux is the only Democrat to topple a House district this year. She won in the northeast suburbs of Atlanta and, like Mr. Biden, embraced her experience as a moderate, bipartisan ideological negotiator.
“The Biden effect was probably split-ticket voters,” she said.
The second round, she said, is about turnout, not voters crossing a party expelling a president.
“You make your people vote,” she said. “So one of the things you need is a real, solid field operation on the ground.”
Ms Bourdeaux’s victory – and that of Mr Biden – cracked a code for Southern Democrats and highlights the changing nature of the electorate in suburban Atlanta, which has helped the party succeed. It was an effort sparked by neighborhood-level organizers, accelerated by an unpopular president, and postponed to the finish line due to changes in suburban Atlanta and in small towns across the state, which have showed significant fluctuations towards Mr. Biden.
In Atlanta, long known as the “black mecca” for its concentration of black wealth and political power, the proportion of white residents has steadily increased. In the suburbs, black residents who relocated and a diverse collection of newcomers fueled democratic change. This includes a growing Latin American population, an influx of Asian Americans, and college-educated white voters who may have supported Mr. Trump in 2016 but turned against him.
The result is a tipping state where the “typical” suburban voter can take many forms. There’s Kim Hall, a 56-year-old woman who moved to suburb Cobb County eight years ago from Texas and attended a rally for Mr. Ossoff in Kennesaw. And Ali Hossain, a 63-year-old doctor who brags about his children and cares about the economy; he attended an event for Mr. Ossoff at Decatur. He is also an immigrant from Bangladesh who began to organize for state and national applicants.
“Asians and South Asians – we’re getting big here,” Hossain said. “This time it was history. When I went to vote early, I saw thousands of people online. People were fed up with Trump.
In Henry County, about 30 miles southeast of Atlanta, Mr. Biden improved his party’s performance nearly five times in 2016. Four years ago, Hillary Clinton defeated Mr. Trump by four percentage points. In 2020, Mr. Biden won by more than 20 points.
Michael Burns, chairman of the Henry County Democratic Party, said he expected interest to drop between the general election and the run-off. Instead, he’s been overwhelmed by investments from national groups and more local organizers than he knows what to do.
For the second round, “we had to turn down volunteers,” Burns said.
It’s part of a larger shift, said Robert Silverstein, a Democratic political strategist who has worked on several races in Georgia. Some assume that suburban voters are universally moderate and white, non-members of the party’s diverse base or progressives. Mr Silverstein said in order for Democrats to win the second round in January and continue to win in countries like Georgia, they need to both energize and persuade.
He noted that in 1992 when Bill Clinton carried the state, Atlanta’s wealthiest suburbs were “blood red.” Today, he said, the coalitions are very different.
Yet the patchwork that made the 2020 Democratic coalition possible is nascent and fragile, and could be overcome by a vigorous Republican electorate. The two Democratic Senate candidates will need to improve their performances in November, when Reverend Dr. Raphael Warnock beat a divided Republican field and Mr. Ossoff ran firmly behind Mr. Biden.
Republicans are confident that their base will reveal itself, and that the prospect of a unified Democratic government under Mr. Biden would deter some conservatives fearing fiscal and cultural change.
The location of their campaign events is indicative of their priorities: Republicans have moved widely away from the Atlanta metro area to focus on increasing turnout in more rural parts of the state. On Saturday, the two candidates gathered with President Trump in Valdosta. The city, which is close to Florida and has a large military and naval community, is geographically three hours from Atlanta but even further in terms of pace and culture.
Democrats are hopeful that Mr. Trump’s involvement will lead to a backlash that will help them solidify the suburban vote. Last week, in a steady stream of public events, Mr. Ossoff hammered home the Republican response to the coronavirus pandemic to Asian-American voters in Decatur, a town in DeKalb County, near Atlanta. At an event near a local university in Cobb County, another evolving suburban area, he called Mr Perdue a coward for refusing to debate it and also criticized Ms Loeffler.
“Like Bonnie and Clyde, we run into political corruption in America,” Ossoff said.
Some Georgia Republicans have privately expressed their embarrassment with Ms Loeffler and Mr Perdue, who have moved closer to Mr Trump and practically abandoned the moderate center outreach in favor of an all-base participation strategy.
Whit Ayres, a veteran Republican pollster in Georgia, said Republican erosion in inner suburbs – and to a lesser extent in conservative suburbs – blunted the advantage Republicans had enjoyed in the run-off election in the past. While white evangelicals and religious conservatives remain a core of the Republican base, and form part of the suburban electorate, some Republicans fear that such problem-motivated voters may be put off by senators’ willingness to tap into. Trump-induced conspiracy theories and misinformation.
Mr Ayres said both sides had hurdles to overcome before January. Republicans have a divisive president within their party, and Democrats must mobilize communities that have typically served in non-presidential elections. They cannot, he said, rely on the same coalition that formed in November.
“Are these now permanent Democratic voters? No, not at all, ”he said. “They are in transition, and they have been largely put off by the conduct and behavior of the president.”
Democratic candidates, the state Democratic Party and outside groups have put in place daily canvassing efforts to register and engage voters – again. Democrats have also taken notice of a poll which shows Mr Ossoff does worse against Mr Perdue than Dr Warnock does against Ms Loeffler.
Few people expect the drop to be so steep that parties will split Senate seats in the end. Two Democratic wins or two Republican wins are much more likely, a contest determined by whether the Liberals can match a forceful Conservative electorate that has often been insurmountable in the state’s run-off election.
“The demographics are changing. And the whites, the more educated voters in Fulton and Cobb counties, they became anti-Trump very quickly, ”said Mr. Silverstein, the Democratic strategist. “My hope, as a Democratic operator, is that they stay that way. But that’s the challenge here. There are still a lot of Republicans in these suburbs.
Last week in Alpharetta, just north of Atlanta, a “Stop the Steal” protest underscored the state’s messy political landscape and sent a mixed message to suburban voters.
“We are not going to vote Jan. 5 on another machine made by China,” said L. Lin Wood, the lawyer who has become a conservative hero in recent weeks, echoing the president’s baseless claims of fraud electoral. He challenged Mr Perdue and Ms Loeffler to speak more about the cancellation of the election.
During Mr. Ossoff’s event in Kennesaw, several of his supporters found statements like Mr. Wood’s ominous, and a sign that every part of their state – cities, suburbs and rural areas – is changing d ‘in a way that shows that Georgians are further apart than ever. .
Tamekia Bell, a 39-year-old woman who returned to the northwestern suburb of Smyrna after years in the Washington area, said it was up to voters who delivered to Mr Biden in November to deliver again.
“This hope that we feel,” Ms. Bell said. “It won’t mean anything if Biden comes in and can’t do anything.”