Well, my my my. The reports of Herschel Walker’s political death in Georgia may turn out to be exaggerated after all — may, I emphasize. A recent Quinnipiac poll showed the football star-turned-Republican Senate nominee down ten points to incumbent Democrat Raphael Warnock, 45/55. However, Democratic pollster Data for Progress sees the race very differently, even with the recent scandals surrounding Walker:

A survey by Data for Progress conducted between July 1 and July 6, exclusively shared with The Daily Beast, shows Walker narrowly leading Warnock by 49 percent to 47 percent. Both candidates fell into negative favorability ratings, as Walker received a -3 favorability while Warnock received a -7.

The Georgia Senate seat is one of Democrats’ top priorities this year as they hope to maintain power in Congress’s upper chamber. But with the party forecast to face massive headwinds during the midterm elections while President Joe Biden’s favorability continues to spiral, Democrats in Georgia, like many other states, could be facing an uphill battle.

One problem with scoping out the true status of this race is how little polling we actually have on it, despite its high profile in these midterms. RCP has Warnock up 1.6 points with data that includes the recent Quinnipiac poll, but that’s based on five polls with data stretching back into mid-January. We’ve only seen two polls in June, with ECU showing a straight-up tie at 46-all and the Q-poll’s ten-point Warnock lead.

It seems very interesting indeed that Democratic pollster sees the Walker-Warnock race more pessimistically than either Quinnipiac or ECU. And there may be a reason for it, although the pollster probably would disagree with its implications:

Though the latest poll shows Warnock down from those previous numbers, Data for Progress founder Sean McElwee told The Daily Beast he sees it as “a more accurate reading of the race,” noting their research shows Republicans are invested in economic issues this cycle while Democrats continue to focus on party values.

Really? That’s not what polling data shows, at least nationally. Democrats are nearly as focused on economic issues in this cycle, and hardly focused at all on “party values,” whatever that means. Quinnipiac’s survey showed Georgia Democrats prioritizing gun control, racial inequality, and abortion ahead of inflation, so McElwee may be correct for the moment on this particular state. But if inflation continues to run hot into September and erode buying power, how long before Georgia Democrats start putting it first?

And take a look at the breakdown on the issue question in the Q-poll, too:

Democrat voters might be focused on “party values,” but hardly any other demo is. Among women, nearly three times as many are prioritizing inflation over abortion, and almost double over their next-highest priority of “gun violence.” Inflation gets even higher priority among college graduates, almost four times as many respondents than abortion and three times as many as election laws. Democrats and black voters are the only two demos without solid pluralities prioritizing inflation, and the latter only barely as gun violence (28%) edges out inflation (25%).

And that’s in the sample that gave Warnock a ten point lead, too.

Meanwhile, Data for Progress has the other marquee race firmly in Republican hands:

The gubernatorial race between Democratic nominee for governor Stacey Abrams and Republican incumbent Brian Kemp is not nearly as close, according to the poll. The survey found 53 percent of respondents said they’d vote for Kemp compared to only 44 for Abrams. Kemp also had a +3 favorability rating, compared to Abrams’ -9.

Quinnipiac had this at a tie, which is at least proportional to these poll results. It doesn’t appear that Abrams is making much of an impression on voters in Georgia even in Dem-leaning surveys despite her longer electoral history in the state. Of course, it might be because of her electoral history and track record of denying official election results, which was a popular position to take in 2018 but somehow became insurrection-y in 2020. It doesn’t appear that Democrats’ focus on “party values” is helping Abrams out in the gubernatorial race.

This points up another dynamic that is worth considering. Abrams and Warnock largely pitch to the same voter base. Kemp and Walker are pitching to two very different markets. Walker is riding on support from Donald Trump and the MAGA wing of the GOP while Kemp has been very unpopular among that crowd, at least until recently. Yet both Republicans seem to be doing well enough to gain leads in surveys conducted by this Dem-leaning pollster, which looks to me like Republican voters in Georgia are leaving 2020 behind and focusing on the present and the future. That’s bad news for Georgia Democrats even outside of specific polling results.

Given that dynamic, the fact that pollsters routinely underestimate Republican support in Georgia (the 2020 runoffs being a notable exception), and the amplitude of the red wave coming in these midterms, I’d guess that both Walker and Kemp are doing even better than we see here. For the moment, anyway.

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