Georgia’s runoff system, which forces a second round of voting if no candidate cracks 50 percent in November, has tended to help Republicans. In 2008, powered by turnout for Barack Obama’s candidacy, Democrats got into the runoff for a Senate seat, then failed to show up for their candidate, a moderate. Democratic turnout tumbled by 48 percent; Republican turnout declined by just 34 percent. This year, they are being asked to support Barrow, a former congressman whose final campaigns (he lost in 2014) advertised how frequently he opposed Obama on the floor. While Barrow has criticized the state’s handling of the Nov. 6 election, he has mostly avoided the galvanizing language of Abrams.
In digital ads, Barrow’s campaign appeals to voters who are “outraged at the recent voter suppression tactics in our state’s elections” and “fed up with politicians who enable our fellow citizens to be disenfranchised.” But in higher-profile settings, Barrow doesn’t go there. He tends to focus on Republican Brad Raffensperger’s tax debts and pitch himself as an efficient manager who’d oversee less chaotic elections.
“I’m the candidate for fiscal conservatives, for independents and libertarians,” said Barrow this week at a forum in Atlanta, highlighting his endorsement from the defeated Libertarian candidate. “I’m the only candidate in this race who’s called for the decertification of the machines used in this race.”
Raffensperger, by contrast, has spent the runoff stoking Republican worries that undoing any of Kemp’s policies would risk the integrity of Georgia’s elections. In an ad, he highlights Barrow’s congressional opposition to a Republican-backed voter ID bill and warns that Barrow would enable “more illegal voting than ever,” though Kemp’s office had said there was no illegal voting whatsoever in 2016. Republican voters, concentrated in whiter and more rural counties, reported few problems on Election Day this year, so Raffensperger gets receptive audiences when he asks if Barrow would blow up a system that works.