Democrats' hopes are high that two Sunbelt prizes that seemed out of reach to them not long ago might fall to them this year: the governorship of Georgia and Ted Cruz's Senate seat in Texas. Just in the last few days, both the Washington Post and New York Times have run detailed articles about each of these contests.
So can the Democrats do it? They're running strong in both places and enthusiasm among Democrats and their core constituencies seems to be high. That is very important obviously and they can't win without it.
But let me give you two numbers to contemplate: 24 and 28. Those are the percentages, respectively, of the white vote in Georgia and Texas that Hillary Clinton got running against Donald Trump. Since whites will likely be over three-fifths of voters in each state, that's got to improve for Stacey Abrams and Beto O'Rourke to prevail. Primarily this will come from the white college vote but some improvement in the larger white noncollege vote is probably also necessary. Otherwise, the Democrats would have to come close to splitting the white college vote evenly in both states, which is a heavy lift.
Stacey Abrams seems to get this. Here's what the New York Times recently reported about her campaign:
"Ms. Abrams, 44, a Yale Law School graduate and former state house minority leader, has been campaigning around Georgia arguing, with wonkish delight, that her progressive policy ideas — including robust investment in public education, gun control and the expansion of Medicaid under Obamacare — amount to mainstream common sense. Her campaign calls it an “opportunity” agenda, and believes it will resonate more widely than the hot-button conservative agenda that Mr. Kemp is still known for that focuses on issues like illegal immigration and the Second Amendment.
Ms. Abrams is also hoping to appeal to moderate voters, placing decidedly more emphasis on her plans to create jobs and invest in education than her criticism of some Confederate memorials, which she has modulated recently."
The Sunbelt is a long-term project for the Democrats, as Ron Brownstein points out in a recent article. But sometimes the long-term comes early. We shall see.