Norwood, Reed, and Runoffs

I’ve written a post before on runoffs that analyzes the history in Georgia, but can’t find it.

The gist is that if the first place winner in a runoff won within 5% of the second place finishers, the 2nd place finisher almost always wins. [Ed. Note: I knew I should not say always here and did it anyway. As several people have pointed out, it should be “almost always, but not always.” Sorry about that.]

Between 5% and 7% the 2nd place person has the advantage, but the 1st place winner has a shot.

Between 7% and 10% the 1st place winner has the advantage, but the 2nd place winner has a very real shot.

At 10% and over, typically the 2nd place person might as well throw in the towel. I don’t know of any candidate to be 10% behind going into a runoff and winning.

Mary Norwood is at 9.44% ahead of Reed. That suggests to me that she still has the advantage going in to the runoff election. It is not, however, a done deal. With Roy Barnes and Lisa Borders’ endorsements of Kasim Reed, I think momentum is with him, though I also don’t think endorsements will help a lot.

He also does quite well at turning out the vote. That’s going to be the hard part for Norwood, I think. If i had to call the race today, I’d think Norwood could win. But within the next two weeks of Reed working on his ground game, that will probably change.


  1. log224 says:

    Erick, I wonder how that looks for the Warner Robins mayoral runoff? The second place finisher was 5.53% behind the first place in the general election, in a very tight 3-way, where the third place was just under 10% behind the first place. The special circumstances are that there is no incumbent, the sitting mayor having committed suicide on September 28 in the midst of the campaign. The second place candidate is a political unknown who gained momentum from some key endorsements, including the late mayor’s widow. Just wondering if anyone cares to make some predictions.

  2. Erick says:

    Statistically, the odds are in the 2nd place finisher’s favor with that margin. However, because Shaheen is a known quantity with a built in organization able to turn out votes, I would personally think he is the favorite.

    That said, in every runoff to my knowledge, if you’re talking a 5% margin, the 2nd place guy has the advantage.

  3. log224 says:

    Looks like you are familiar with the race. Ought to be interesting…I believe the Walker campaign organization is mobilized in Chalk’s camp. I think it will be close either way.

  4. Brave New World says:

    Does this analysis include candidates in Georgia history who have not been sworn in? 24% is a long distance from 10%.

  5. Dem in the Burbs says:

    “The gist is that if the first place winner in a runoff won within 5% of the second place finishers, the 2nd place finisher always wins.”

    This did not hold true for the 2008 U.S. Senate election in Georgia. Saxby had 49.8% of the vote and Martin had 46.8% in the general election, yet Saxby in the runoff.

  6. SpaceyG says:

    If it sleets on runoff day Norwood will win. If it’s a lovely day, such as today in the ATL, Reed can pull this one off. He’s got the momentum. As a savvy insider said, last night at yet another Atlanta city politics thingee (I go to a lot of these. Constantly. I actually know stuff about Atlanta politics because of this, rather than just pulling jack outta my crack like you do Erick regarding geo-political space you know nothing about, but I diverge.)… Norwood has stalled out. Lost momentum in other words. Ain’t got no mojo left.

    • macho says:

      What is the point you’re trying to make in regards to Atlanta politics and the weather – Norwood supporters are dedicated and Reed supporters are lazy?

      • Game Fan says:

        I think what SpacyG was alluding to was the idea that blacks prefer warmer temperatures whereas the “ice man” is more comfortable venturing out during times of frozen precipitation. She was just diverging. But I digress.

      • ugadog says:

        I love how Erick makes a post that is just patently false. The vast majority of runoffs are won by the first place finisher. The exception is if the first place finisher is an incumbent. Professor Bullock actually wrote a book about this. Yet no one dares to point out this obvious idiotic comment.

        Then spaceyG makes a comment about the weather and voting trends, that Republicans fair better in worse weather than Democrats. She is derided.

    • Sleepy Tom says:

      Spacey, tell everyone the truth: You go to those shindigs to get hit-on and hooked-up just like every other attendee.

    • MaxieGrrrl says:

      As bad as it sounds, SpaceyG has a point. The African American vote is notoriously difficult to turnout for a run-off. The job gets especially tough when other “barriers” arise– precipitation being one of them.

  7. Goldwater Conservative says:

    Erick and Everybody,

    Erick’s observation about 2nd placers in the general winning the runoff is pretty typical.

    In the occasion that an election has multiple candidates (defined as 3 candidates or more) the candidate with the 2nd most votes typically belongs to the party, or side, that has the most candidates. Those candidates all share that side of the vote collectively. In the runoff, the 2nd highest vote grabber, if an effective campaigner, should grab all the votes from their side of the electorate leaving the top vote getter with only their fraction and nobody else’s.

    Take the Norwood/Reed Runoff. Reed shared democratic voters with Borders and Norwood had Republicans all to her self. Considering that Borders was more liberal than Reed, and Reed is more liberal than Norwood…Reed holds position closer to Atlanta’s median voter and should grab his voters and Borders’s voters.

    Sometimes runoffs do mess with this theorem a little bit. Take the 10th district 2007 Special election. When you have an excessive number of candidates things get very difficult for voters very fast. The same will probably hold true for the 9th District Congressional election with 10 republicans. Of course, all things are conditional upon a campaign’s ability to get out the vote and get on tv.

    On top of that just look at the political dynamics. The democrats are all backing Reed…not Norwood. The GOP is reluctant to help Norwood because their public support will sink her campaign.

    • macho says:

      The GOP is reluctant to help Norwood, because she just spent the last few weeks, and a good bit of her campaign budget, bashing them; the crescendo was when she compared going to the GOP convention to trying cocaine.

      She fell straight into Reed’s trap, literally running ads denying her GOP ties, what better way to drawl attention to the issue. She allowed Reed to dictate the terms of the campaign, a big political no-no.

      • tinsandwich says:


        I thought the adds denying she was an R. was just stupid. She could have/should have ignored the issue.

        This is a going to be a close race. I have heard that a good amount of black voters just don’t trust Reed.

    • MaxieGrrrl says:

      Hmmm… you have to consider that a solid portion of Borders’ support was northside and white. Norwood will take a significant share of that vote. Also, another segment of Borders’ vote (southside and black) had an anti-Reed motivation.

  8. Icarus says:

    At the risk of losing my posting priviledges or any remaining vestages of my sanity, I’m actually going to side with SpaceyG here.

    First, Erick’s analysis doesn’t speak to runoffs that include an incumbent. An incumbent in a runoff is generally more likely to lose, especially if that incumbent is below 45%. Just a tangetial thought and not my main point.

    But the bigger point to runoffs, and one of the first lessons beaten into my head in my campaign days, is that runoffs are separate, stand alone elections, and must be treated as such.

    It’s a whole new fundraising cycle, re-alignment of key supporters, re-alignment of message, and new GOTV operation, that all must be crafted and executed within a matter of weeks.

    While statistical data points are interesting, each campaign has unique factors that are much more important “tea leaves” than the raw numbers.

    Mary Norwood peaked about 2-3 weeks before the election. She’s had horrible earned media since then, and a few folks have told me they voted for her on an early ballot that wished they had not by the election day.

    Meanwhile, Kasim Reed executed his plan flawlessly. His campaign timed its move with precision, and hit election day firing on all cylinders as if he were the front runner.

    Kasim has the momentum. Norwood, while leading in the raw numbers, looks like yesterdays news.

  9. The Wonderer says:

    I wonder:

    Would most of the Republicans who are going to vote for Mary Norwood would still do it if THEY BELIEVED SHE WAS TELLING THE TRUTH WHEN SHE SAID SHE VOTED FOR BARACK OBAMA, or do they just naturally assume she said what she had to say to try to trick a few black people?

    • MaxieGrrrl says:

      So, would they vote for Reed? Doubtful. They either vote for Norwood on taxation, smaller government and public safety issues or they stay home.

  10. Angry Taxpayer says:

    Up to the general, it was a 2 party race with no advantage to Mary to look behind her (to the 2nd and 3rd placers). At this point, it is 2-person and you can expect Kasim’s dirty laundry (and as a single guy he has a lot of it) to come out.

    People in Atlanta want a change in direction. Mary will prevail.

    Frankly, given that Reed just recently moved into the City I am surprised he has done as well as he has – but the machine is still good for votes so it will be interesting….

    • AubieTurtle says:

      Some of the spin out there is getting really weird. The latest is that Mary represents change because Atlanta government is set up in such a way to make the city council the weakest in the country. Since the mayor has all the power and the council has none, Mary being on the council for eight years doesn’t count (except when talking about having governing experience, at which point somehow it does count).

      While we’re on the subject of odd ways to paint someone as an outsider and thus capable of bringing change, here are reasons to vote for Reed:

      1) The current mayor is a female and so is Norwood. Reed is a male. Vote for change, vote for the Y chromosome!

      2) Franklin has two syllables, Norwood has two syllables. Thus the two people are identical. Reed only has one syllable. Don’t vote for those pretentious poly-syllable names! Vote Reed, mono-syllable change you can believe in!

      3) Franklin has poofy hair, Norwood has poofy hair. Reed has simple hair, the kind of haircut that one can get for $5 at the type of barbershop that Real Americans go to. Do you really want to vote for four more years of John Edwards type hair?

    • MaxieGrrrl says:

      You honestly think the powers granted to council, let alone a single council person, are any match for the city’s mayor strong form of government?

      • AubieTurtle says:

        Enough powers to not be able to be considered an outsider after having them for eight years. If the concil is that weak, then it reflects poorly on her for taking advantage of such a do-nothing powerless office that comes with lots of money.

        She can’t have it both ways. If the council has any power, she isn’t an outsider. If it doesn’t have power, she’s a crook for taking the public’s money when she knew she was adding no benefit to the taxpayers. I’m sure she’ll give an answer to that one after she talks to the same consultants that told her how she voted in the presidential elections.

    • B Balz says:

      I think so. I cannot recall one initiative that Mary undertook to resolve endemic, poor financial planning and operations for Atlanta.

      Not one ‘best practices’ type of analysis to resolve Atlanta budget, transpo, Grady, etc. issue.

      Mary Norwood is the political equivalent of frozen toast – An unnecessary and unwanted solution.

  11. Angry Taxpayer says:

    The machine is fighting hard and even willing to spend time on this blog. Not sure that their candidate instills what is needed for a turnout. I personally don’t think so because he does not have the personal ties in the community – after all he just moved in.

    More important, he has not had to face the fire yet. Endorsements are nice but voters, particullarly in a runoff, vote because they have an issue. Yes his Campbell/Franklin pledge on cops that will never be realized as Borders point out is quite appealing. But do you think South Atlanta believes the machine is really going to do something different this time – I dont think so.

    One of the most serious issues on the table – The violation of the oath of office and false swearing. In January 2009, he took an oath stating that he did not owe back taxes – be glad to share the specific language if you like. On WSB Thursday night, he acknowledged in fact that he did though he blames his bank (for which he serves on the Board), the tax commissioner for loosing his money order (no kidding he said he was 2 years late on a payment because he sent a money order) and his business partners for his other properties. Regardless, he owed the money and could not sign the oath that he signed as State Senator.

    Not sure that it is so much about the cash – and that does anger the taxpayers that pay on time – rather it shows a complete lack of concern for his word. Will he simply sign anything for power?

    If he can’t manage his own finances – how is he going to manage the City’s. He’s got $100k to loan his campaign but he can’t pay his taxes in a timely fashion……

    More to come.

      • ByteMe says:

        And Republican strategy, too. Don’t forget the regular complaints that Republicans make about the “mainstream media”, which has now come to mean any media attention that they don’t like.

  12. JasonW says:

    Personally, I think there is a key factor that some are overlooking that should help Norwood. Thats the fact that the District 6 City Council race is in a runoff. Alex Wan and Liz Coyle are also rallying to get voters to the poll. Those voters will likely favor, in large numbers, Mary Norwood. This race is going to come down to voter turnout. If Mary Norwood can get District 6, 7, and 8 out to vote, then it will be almost impossible to beat her.

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