Georgia’s 2014 Senate Race May Test Democratic Competitiveness Claims

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Sen. Saxby Chambliss gets on the Senate subway as he leaves after a hearing on the Benghazi attack on Nov. 16, 2012 on Capitol Hill.

Among the Republican-leaning states where Democrats are hopeful of reversing a string of statewide election defeats, Georgia nears the top of the list.

With Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss declining to defend his seat in 2014, Georgia will play host to an open-seat Senate race in which Democrats say they’ll be competitive.

“Georgia will now offer Democrats one of our best pick-up opportunities” in part because “the demographics of the state have changed and Democrats are gaining strength,” Guy Cecil, executive director of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said in a statement.

A Democratic statewide victory in Georgia requires near-unanimous support from black voters (30 percent of the population, third-highest in the nation) and enough support from white voters, including in and around Atlanta.

Republicans won every statewide office in 2010, a good Republican year, and the party has won five straight presidential elections, including in 2012.

Georgia hasn’t been voting as strongly Republican as Texas, where Democrats are also vowing to compete more vigorously. President Barack Obama lost Georgia by 7.8 percentage points, the 12th-closest margin of victory in the nation. Georgia was actually more competitive than Arizona and Missouri, each of which backed Romney by about 9 points, and Michigan, which Obama won by more than 9 points after Republicans insisted the state was competitive.

Chambliss needed a runoff to win re-election in 2008, when Obama lost the state by 5 points amid his landslide victory nationwide.

Democrats won’t have Obama on the ballot in November 2014 to help drive voter turnout. The party holding the White House usually loses ground in Congress in midterm elections because opponents of the administration generally are more motivated to vote than supporters.

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