I’m kidding. She didn’t say she was running for “reelection.”
I mean, I’m sure she’s thinking it. Her years of whining about having supposedly been cheated out of her rightful victory in 2018 all point to that. And she wields enough leverage in the Democratic Party that politicians more prominent than her have pushed the lie that she won the election three years ago on her behalf.
But she’s not saying it. Not today, at least.
I’m surprised that she’s running but even more surprised that she didn’t tout Donald Trump’s endorsement in her announcement video. She’s the fusion candidate!
I’m running for Governor because opportunity in our state shouldn’t be determined by zip code, background or access to power. #gapol
— Stacey Abrams (@staceyabrams) December 1, 2021
Why am I surprised that she’s in? Because every poll in the country sees voters preparing to administer a vicious beating to her party next fall, leaving Democrats in a 50/50 state like Georgia at dire risk. Abrams has already lost once before, notwithstanding the protestations of her allies. If she were to lose again to an incumbent as weak as Kemp, Dems will start whispering that she’s overhyped and can’t win swing voters. Her national prospects would be hanging by a thread. The prudent play would be to pass on the governor’s race and lobby Biden for a cabinet position.
A red wave is coming and yet she’s sailing right into it. How come? Five reasons.
1. The local picture in Georgia may look better for Democrats than the national picture does. Look no further than last night’s results:
Democrats flipped at least seven local races across Georgia tonight, including in Warner Robins, where voters elected the first woman and first Black mayor to lead the city. #gapol pic.twitter.com/Eog62mfqH0
— Greg Bluestein (@bluestein) December 1, 2021
Abrams oversees an extensive GOTV network. If they’re confident they can turn out the numbers to put her over the top, she’ll be more willing to gamble.
2. Pressure from the national party. Democrats are desperate for a shot in the arm in the midterms given how dismal their prospects look. The left is dejected that Build Back Better has been scaled back and might not pass at all, and they’re angry that the party has failed to deliver on priorities like voting rights despite having total control of government. Abrams running again will give the party a jolt of enthusiasm, which is especially important in Georgia considering Raphael Warnock is back on the ballot and facing a stiff challenge from Herschel Walker. Having Abrams at the top of the ticket will motivate progressives, young adults, and African-Americans to turn out and avenge “the steal” of 2018. Warnock is more likely to hold his seat today than he was yesterday.
3. The GOP is divided. The national forecast may be calling for a red wave next year but in Georgia Republicans are at each other’s throats due to Trump’s lingering butthurt over the 2020 election. Jody Hice is primarying Brad Raffensperger for secretary of state. Lieutenant Gov. Geoff Duncan, a Trump critic, isn’t running for reelection given the expectation that he wouldn’t survive a primary. Brian Kemp might be facing his own formidable primary challenger in David Perdue, but even if Perdue passes on the race Trump will spend the first half of next year savaging Kemp and eventually backing some other challenger. No one has taken more abuse from him over the election results than the governor of Georgia has, probably because losing a southern state was Trump’s most embarrassing defeat last fall. With MAGA voters destined to be lukewarm at best about Kemp if he’s the nominee, Abrams smells opportunity.
4. Abortion. One can’t help but notice that Abrams announced her candidacy just hours after the Supreme Court sounded skeptical about Roe v. Wade in oral arguments on Mississippi’s new abortion law. Abrams may be making a high-risk, high-reward bet that SCOTUS will end up overturning Roe next summer and Democratic voters will go berserk, channeling their rage into intense enthusiasm to punish the GOP in the midterms. Abortion politics could also tip some swing voters into Abrams’s camp on the assumption that Kemp and a Republican legislature might move to ban abortion entirely, a position opposed by most Americans. I think the Court *is* likely to overturn Roe, which will help Democratic candidates everywhere.
5. Abrams is watching as Kamala Harris’s star dims. If Abrams doesn’t run next year, she’s locked out of Georgia politics in the short-term. She’s not going to primary Jon Ossoff for his Senate seat. If Walker ends up defeating Warnock, he won’t be on the ballot again until 2028. Abrams would be stuck waiting until 2026 to run for governor. Five years is a long time in politics, more than enough for new political stars to rise and overtake her. Meanwhile, the current vice president of the United States is widely viewed as politically hapless and an electoral disaster in the making if she ends up as Democrats’ next presidential nominee, so much so that Dems have already begun whispering about a wide-open primary in 2024 if Biden doesn’t run again. Abrams would have a hard time convincing Democratic voters to nominate her for president if the last elected office she held was state assemblyman seven years earlier. She’d have a much easier time making that case as the sitting governor of Georgia and the first black woman governor in U.S. history.
Bottom line: If she wants to run nationally, she has to stay relevant. And rolling the dice on the governor’s race next year is her only opportunity to do so. She’s decided to gamble. High risk, high reward.
Exit question: If Kemp gets through his primary, is Trump going to endorse him against Abrams? Obviously he won’t endorse Abrams. But given the extent of the vitriol he’s aimed at Kemp, is there any alternative for him except neutrality in the race?
Update: As I was saying.