Georgia on my mind

An interesting night of election returns from Georgia (whose secretary of state, unlike those of Colorado and Minnesota, is doing a good job of sharing incoming election results).

As I write, Nathan Deal is leading Karen Handel in the Republican runoff for governor by a 50.4%-49.6% margin. That’s a 4,382-vote margin out of 560,189 counted.

But I’m betting on Handel. Nearly all of Georgia’s 159 counties are reported to have 92% to 100% of their precincts counted. Most of the exceptions are negligible—Dougherty, Telfair and Wheeler Counties in south Georgia, Clayton (black-majority) and Paulding (exurban) in metro Atlanta.

The two exceptions are Gwinnett County, northeast of Atlanta and close to Deal’s congressional district, where only 27% of precincts have reported and Deal leads by 1,153 votes of 50,993 cast, and Fulton County, which includes most of Atlanta and where the Republican votes come mostly from affluent Buckhead and Sandy Spring. There, only 27% of the precints have been counted and Handel leads by 15,763 votes out of 36,471 votes cast.

If the rest of Fulton County comes in that way—and if the secretary of state’s website is correct in saying that almost all the votes in the rest of the state have been counted—then Handel could overcome Deal’s current lead. On the other hand, if all the uncounted Fulton County precincts are in heavily black south and southwest Atlanta, there won’t be many Republican votes there at all and Handel will fall short. On such contingencies rests the reputation for clout of Sarah Palin, who endorsed Handel.

Beltway Confidentialcoelection 2010US

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