The New York Times’ election prediction model, the Leo, was updated today to move the Georgia Senate race from likely Republican to tossup, in light of recent polling that shows Democrat Michelle Nunn beating all candidates except for Republican businessman David Perdue.
The NYT quoted surveys from the Atlanta-Journal Constitution and NBC News to support the change. In both polls Nunn defeats all other candidates, and is about even with Perdue. As a result, the NYT is changing its prediction that Republicans have a 54 percent chance of taking over the U.S. Senate to 52 percent chance that Democrats will stay in power.
According to Leo’s estimates, the two Republican candidates that will end up in a runoff in Georgia are Perdue and U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga). Nowhere in its analysis does the NYT mention former Secretary of State Karen Handel, who shows up in the AJC survey as the runner up behind Perdue, beating Kingston by one point.
According to the NYT, the outcome of the Republican primary, or rather the July 22 runoff, will determine whether Nunn can win. The NYT believes Nunn has only 26 percent chance of winning against Perdue and 48 percent chance of beating Kingston. They give Nunn 73 percent chance against another Republican U.S Rep. Phil Gingrey, but they skip over Handel.
Certainly, Handel would challenge Nunn at least as effectively as Kingston, especially since the “war on women” argument that Democrats have been so fond of would be eliminated.
This is the first time in years that Georgia Democrats are competitive in a statewide race. This is due to changing demographics in the Peach State, where minorities, especially Hispanics, are set to become the largest voting block within the next decade.
“Ever since our model, called Leo, debuted, we’ve considered Georgia to be the best opportunity for the Democrats to pick up a Republican seat, and over the past several weeks, it has been looking like less of a long shot,” said NYT’s Josh Katz. “Our Senate model now classifies the race as a tossup, giving the Democratic candidate, Michelle Nunn, a 43 percent chance of capturing the seat in November. But this is highly contingent on which Republican emerges from the primary next Tuesday.”