Polling Deja Vu – Or Is It?

Many of us recall the collective media firestorm back in 2014 when the conventional wisdom was that the race to replace retiring Senator Saxby Chambliss would undoubtedly be headed into a runoff. Only one poll since September had David Perdue running at or above the 50% mark heading into Election Day. Indeed, the final RCP Average had Perdue barely ahead of Nunn, 48.2% – 45.4%.

We all know the final result. Riding a national Republican wave, David Perdue ended up trouncing Nunn by an 8-point margin 53% to 45%, avoiding a December runoff.

Alarm bells seemed to be sounding as we all woke up this morning to an AJC poll that showed Hillary Clinton leading Donald Trump by 3 points, 41% to 38%, in a 4-way race. You can see the cross tabs for yourself, here. This is the second poll in a row showing a tight race – WSB-TV/Landmark polling had the race tied at 45%.

No sooner did the hot takes begin, did many Georgia Republicans start to roll their eyes. We’ve seen this before. The polls will show a close race mired in the mid to low 40’s, but the inherent Republican advantage in turnout and party ID will deliver Trump the Peach State for the 6th straight presidential contest.

Or will it?

Looking back at the 2014 and 2012 numbers, the AJC’s record seems to be pretty good at picking the winner this close to Election Day. Their October 2012 poll nearly hit the mark – Romney won by 7.8% three weeks after the AJC pegged him up by 8%. In 2014, their September and October polls both had Perdue leading, although he was short of 50% in both of them.

Providing a warning shot to Hillary Clinton’s chances in Georgia is the infamous leaked strategy memo from the Michelle Nunn 2014 Senate campaign. In it, Nunn’s strategists assert that she would need 30% of the white vote in Georgia to win. According to AJC’s poll out today, Clinton is registering at 20% in a 4-way race.

Yet, helping Clinton are Donald Trump’s historically low numbers…among Republicans. Taking a look at the AJC cross tabs (here), Trump is only raking in 79% of self-identified Republicans. Many strategists believe that Trump needs to be north of 90% of Republicans nationally to have a chance at emerging victorious in November.

Clinton’s lead is coming from Independents, where she ties Trump at 33%, a unified Democratic party (89%), and is helped by Libertarian Gary Johnson siphoning off 18% of Independents and 9% of Republicans. Both groups are ones that Trump desperately needs on his side.

While things are still close, Trump has lost his lead of 4 points that the AJC gave him in May. This is also after the RNC in Cleveland where Republicans were urged to unite behind their nominee. Trump getting 79% of Georgia Republicans may say a lot, but “united” isn’t what comes to mind.

We should all keep in mind that Georgia has no ‘50% plus one’ requirement for presidential races. While David Perdue might have been aided by a runoff electorate, Donald Trump has no such failsafe. Hillary Clinton could conceivably win Georgia’s 16 electoral votes with numbers similar to what we have seen in recent polling.

All of this data should also be taken with a grain of salt. Singular polls are a snapshot in time and things can certainly change before Election Day. However, there’s not a lot of data that points to things going Donald Trump’s way – in Georgia, or beyond.

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