Over at Real Clear Politics, Sean Trende takes a close look at how Georgia’s politics have changed over the last century, moving from a mostly solid Democratic state to becoming more Republican in the 1990s to a period of GOP dominance in the 2000s.
Trende’s examination of Georgia politics takes into account both geography and demographic change. As an example, he notes that until whites south of the Fall Line flipped from Democratic to Republican in the early 2000s, Democratic candidates still dominated under the Gold Dome.
That brings us to 2014, and the closely fought battle between the parties in the Senate and Governor’s races. For all the discussion on the impact of the declining percentage of white voters, Trende points out that a bigger factor may be the increasing number of voters of ‘Unknown Race.’
What I think we do know, however, is that the growth of the non-white electorate is probably overstated. In nominal terms, the white share of registered voters is down 4.6 percent from 2008, 3.7 percent from 2010, and 1.1 percent from 2012.
What’s odd, however, is that the black vote is perfectly stable, at 30 percent. The Asian share is up 0.2 percent since 2008, from 1.2 percent to 1.4 percent. The Hispanic share is up 0.4 percent, from 1.4 percent to 1.8 percent. The “other” share is stable.
The change in the electorate is almost entirely due to the “unknown” vote. Who are the “unknowns”? To be honest, we don’t know! “Unknown” means the question is left blank. If someone marks two races, they are categorized as “other.”
While it’s easy to assume (as some have done in comments on other posts here) that voters of unknown race are likely to be minorities, and therefore likely Democratic votes, Trende’s analysis shows that many may in fact be rural whites. And he postulates that an increase in the rural white vote could be a boost for Michelle Nunn in a runoff:
If Nunn makes it to a runoff as the result of a strong showing among white voters, that strength could very well carry through to the runoff. It’s far too early to say what a runoff electorate looks like, and Nunn will have other problems besides minority turnout to deal with (the University of Georgia goes back into session the day before that election). But if Nunn is really performing better among rural whites due to Perdue’s status as a wealthy businessman who says favorable things about outsourcing, she might have a shot at upending the conventional wisdom in a runoff, and re-creating the coalition that enabled Democrats to win elections in the 1990s.