Ellison’s Election Tip Sheet

Tuesday’s Big Three: Georgia, Kentucky, Arkansas

Ellison Barber election tip sheet
• May 23, 2014 12:10 pm


Six states held primaries on Tuesday: Georgia, Kentucky, and Arkansas.

They’re all races that are varying degrees of toss-ups, and they are all important in the GOP’s efforts to take control of the Senate.


The GOP primary in Georgia is not yet over, but it is down to two candidates:

Politico reports:

David Perdue and Jack Kingston are headed to a runoff in the Georgia Republican Senate primary after Kingston beat out former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel for second place.

With 97 percent of precincts reporting, Perdue led with 30 percent, well shy of the majority needed to avoid the runoff. Kingston was a close second, with 26 percent, ahead of Handel, who was at 22 percent.

Perdue and Kingston will now face each other on July 22 after a two-month dogfight that—if the last few weeks are any indication—could get very nasty.

In North Carolina, a run off would have benefited Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan, but analysts say that might not be the case in Georgia.

Earlier this week, on the Blaze’s "Real News," Betsy Woodruff of the Washington Examiner pointed out to me that whenever there is an open Senate seat in Georgia, the GOP field is crowded and there tends to be a runoff.

A candidate does not just need to beat their opponent in Georgia; they must receive 50 percent of the vote or there’s a runoff. According to people in Georgia politics, that means runoffs are common and the people I’ve spoken with over the last couple of days don’t seem to think this runoff is a very big deal.

In 2008, Sen. Saxby Chambliss, had been in office for one term, and he faced a runoff in the general election.

Because there’s a precedent for runoffs in the state, this one probably won’t be as helpful to Democrats as a runoff would be somewhere such as North Carolina.

A recent poll found that the Democratic nominee, Michelle Nunn, leading Kingston by 10 points, and Perdue by one point.

I’m not convinced that means much.

Nunn has not participated in most of the primary debates; how can Georgia voters really know enough about her to have a strong opinion? They don’t. Michelle Nunn is polling well because no one really knows her, but they see her name and know her dad, a politician that is still very well liked.

General election polls in Georgia don’t hold much weight for me right now; we probably shouldn’t look at them until Nunn actually shows up for debates. 


This is a solidly red state. Obama lost it in 2008 and 2012, Bush won it in 2000 and 2004, and they have not sent a Democrat to the Senate since 1992.

Still, Alison Lundergan Grimes is a serious challenger.

Poll after poll shows McConnell and Grimes within one point of each other. The most recent Bluegrass poll found Grimes ahead by one point, with 43 percent favoring her and 42 percent favoring McConnell, but considering the primary challenge, McConnell doesn’t seem very damaged.

The Wall Street Journal writes:

Mr. Bevin hardly laid a glove on the Senate minority leader.

Mr. Bevin spent $3.3 million, including $900,000 of his own funds, to win just a third of the Kentucky Republican primary vote. Mr. McConnell is already unpopular in Kentucky—polls show him trailing Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes—but Mr. Bevin’s campaign didn’t do much to make Mr. McConnell more unpopular.

The Associated Press called the race for Mr. McConnell five minutes after all polls in Kentucky closed.

As we’ve seen with countless candidates on both sides of the aisle, a tough primary can cripple a slightly vulnerable candidate in the general election. McConnell is vulnerable, but he’s managed to overcome the primary with very few wounds and that places him in a stronger position to face Grimes.


Arkansas is one of Republicans’ best chances to turn a seat. Rep. Tom Cotton, unsurprisingly, secured the Republican nomination on Tuesday.

Polls have been all over the place in Arkansas, a recent poll has incumbent Sen. Mark Pryor up by 11 points, a PPP poll from the end of April found Pryor just one point ahead of Cotton, and other polls have shown Cotton with a lead.

Experts say turnout will be key in this race, and midterm elections turnout typically favors Republicans.

After his win on Tuesday, Cotton’s campaign sent out a memo praising the Republican turnout.

The Washington Free Beacon notes:

The number of Republicans who voted in Tuesday’s Arkansas primary surpassed the number of Democrats "for the first time since the Civil War," according to a memo issued this morning by Republican Senate candidate Rep. Tom Cotton’s campaign.

The number of GOP primary voters increased by 32.4 percent since 2010 and 18.3 percent since 2012, communications director David Ray wrote in the memo.

This race could easily come down to who shows up at the polls, and right now it seems Cotton has the advantage there.