A new poll by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Georgia News Collaboration shows Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker and incumbent Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock in a virtual dead heat. The poll also shows incumbent GOP Governor Brian Kemp opening a substantial, double-digit lead over Stacey Abrams.
Only a few responses were collected after the abortion story dogging Walker’s campaign became news, so the impact of the allegations that he paid for an abortion for his girlfriend in 2009 — an allegation that Walker has denied — has yet to be determined.
Complicating the Senate race is the very real possibility that a runoff election will be needed to determine the winner. Senator Warnock stands at 46% while Walker is at 43% — within the margin of error. Libertarian Chase Oliver is drawing about 4%, while 6% are undecided.
The real surprise in this poll is the growing strength of Brian Kemp and the apparent fall-off of black voters’ support for Stacey Abrams.
The results reinforced a trend of lagging support among Black voters that has dogged Abrams’ campaign. It shows that 81% of Black voters back the Democrat, 8% support Kemp and 10% are undecided. Strategists say Abrams must be at least 10 points higher among Black voters, the most reliable Democratic constituency.
“I’m concerned about her progressiveness,” said Dyann Allen-Jordan, who said she hasn’t seen much of Abrams in her majority-Black community in Athens-Clarke County. “I don’t know what she can do about it at this point.”
Warnock, the state’s first Black U.S. senator, outperformed Abrams among African American voters with 89% of the vote. That’s a 12-point gain compared with the last UGA poll in September, while Abrams’ support in the demographic grew by about 2 percentage points.
It’s unknown if there will be a significant negative impact on Walker’s campaign as a result of the abortion allegations. While the media is beating the story for all they’re worth, there’s no tangible evidence that the story is true. Walker continues to deny it, and until someone comes up with hard evidence to the contrary, those who want to believe him will continue to do so.
Besides, given Walker’s previous gaffes and misstatements of fact, voters have already factored in their notions of his credibility, so moving the needle on his support or opposition probably won’t matter very much.
What will matter is how big a margin of victory Brian Kemp will draw. If he can maintain a double-digit lead over Abrams, it might be just enough to propel Walker across the finish line on election day. Given how close Warnock and Walker are, the probability that the Libertarian Party candidate will lose support the closer we get to the election, and the real possibility that the small number of undecided voters will break against the incumbent for Walker, the Republican just might squeak through to claim the Senate seat and flip it from blue to red.