President Trump is sending mixed messages ahead of Georgia’s runoff elections on Tuesday, prioritizing personal grievance over the party’s drive to win the state’s two seats and imperiling Republican control of the Senate.
The president is fixated on his loss in Georgia, an obsession that can be explained by two powerful and concurrent motivations — one psychological, one impelled by calculation and grounded in political reality, people close to him said.
For starters, Mr. Trump simply cannot believe he lost a once-red Southern state — and cannot comprehend that his own unpopularity hastened a political realignment already taking place in the swing state. At the same time, he is very much in touch with the reality that he holds sway over party’s right wing, and sees the runoff as a valuable moment of final political leverage as president.
Over the past week, he has whipsawed from supporting the Senate candidates, albeit tepidly, to griping about the legality of the runoffs, far more passionately.
The president, who will appear with the incumbent Republicans, Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, in Dalton, Ga. on Monday, wrote on Twitter late Friday that the runoff was “illegal and invalid,” but then urged his supporters a day later to “get ready to vote on Tuesday.”
The trip comes a day after the stunning revelation that Mr. Trump asked Georgia’s Republican Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, to find 11,000-plus votes in order to overturn the will of the state’s electorate.
On Monday, Mr. Trump signaled on Twitter that he planned to make his case at the campaign event, intended to kick-start sluggish Republican turnout. It was low in early voting, prompted by skepticism among his own die-hards about the validity of the November results.
Mr. Trump muscled his way to power by bullying the Republican establishment — and the party’s leaders now worry that he might drag them down with him.
In Saturday’s call, which was made public by Mr. Raffensperger’s office, Mr. Trump vaguely threatened to the secretary of state that he would incite wrath — and discourage Republicans from voting — if he did not get his way.
“You’re going to have people just not voting,” said Mr. Trump, hinting at a dark outcome for politicians, like Mr. Rasffensperger, who opposed him. “They don’t want to vote, they hate the state. They hate the governor, and they hate the secretary of state.”
Mr. Raffensperger, in an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America, said of the taped one-hour call that Mr. Trump “did most of the talking.”
“We did most of the listening, but I did want to make my points that the data that he has is just plain wrong,” he added.
“It was inappropriate,” Georgia’s Republican lieutenant governor, Geoff Duncan, told CNN on Monday.
It is a moment of profound angst for Mr. Perdue and Ms. Loeffler. They have tethered themselves to the president in hopes of survival, going so far as to call for the resignation of Mr. Raffensperger, a Trump supporter.
Ms. Loeffler, speaking over the weekend, dodged questions about whether she would support the futile effort to object to President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s Electoral College victory in the Senate. But Mr. Perdue has said that he would have backed the effort if his Senate term had not expired on Sunday.
In a blow to Mr. Trump, Senator Tom Cotton, Republican of Arkansas, declared on Monday that he would oppose that effort, prompting a tweet from the president warning of the consequences.
“Republicans have pluses & minuses, but one thing is sure, THEY NEVER FORGET!” Mr. Trump wrote, singling out Mr. Cotton by name.
In the 220 years since a defeated President John Adams turned over the White House to his rival, firmly establishing the peaceful transfer of power as a bedrock principle, no sitting president who lost an election has tried to hang onto power by rejecting the Electoral College and subverting the will of the voters — until now.
It is a scenario at once utterly unthinkable and yet feared since the beginning of President Trump’s tenure.
The president has gone well beyond simply venting his grievances or creating a face-saving narrative to explain away a loss, as advisers privately suggested he was doing in the days after the Nov. 3 vote, but instead has pressed the boundaries of tradition, propriety and the law to find any way he can to cling to office beyond his term that expires in two weeks.
He has called the Republican governors of Georgia and Arizona to get them to overturn President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory. He has summoned Michigan’s Republican legislature leaders to the White House to pressure them to change their state’s results. He called the Republican speaker of the Pennsylvania House twice to do the same.
Mr. Trump’s hourlong telephone call over the weekend with Georgia’s chief election official, Brad Raffensperger, pressuring him to “find” enough votes to overturn Mr. Biden’s win in the state, only brought into stark relief what Mr. Trump has been doing for weeks. He and his staff have floated the idea of delaying Mr. Biden’s inauguration, which is set in stone by the Constitution, and he met with a former adviser urging him to declare martial law.
The president has denied attempting to subvert democracy, but his efforts ring familiar to many who have studied authoritarian regimes in countries around the world, like those run by President Vladimir V. Putin in Russia and Prime Minister Viktor Orban in Hungary.
“Today’s leaders come in through elections and then manipulate elections to stay in office — until they get enough power to force the hand of legislative bodies to keep them there indefinitely, as Putin and Orban have done,” said Ruth Ben-Ghiat, author of “Strongmen: From Mussolini to the Present.”
Vice President Mike Pence kicked off the start of a final push by party leaders on Monday to urge voters to turn out for Tuesday’s highly consequential runoff elections.
He implored Georgians to send Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler back to Washington, allowing Republicans to maintain control of the Senate.
“In one more day, we need Georgia to defend the majority,” Mr. Pence said in a midday appearance at a church in Milner, Ga. “A Republican Senate majority could be our last line of defense.”
An influx of new voters and a fractured Republican electorate have given Democrats hope for a power-shifting victory by their Senate candidates, Jon Ossoff and the Rev. Raphael Warnock. President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., who won the state in November, will campaign with the two men on Monday in the largely Democratic Atlanta area.
The Republican incumbents are turning to President Trump to shore up the vote and motivate the Georgians who supported him in November, even as the president continues to challenge the validity of the state’s results. Mr. Trump is holding a rally on Monday evening with the two candidates in Dalton, a city in northwest Georgia in a region where early voting turnout has been relatively light.
Some Republicans worry that the president’s two-month campaign against the election outcome could keep Trump supporters home on Tuesday because of a loss of faith in the system. There are also concerns about the potential for Mr. Trump to use Monday’s appearance to mostly talk about himself, particularly after the release of a recording of a call between Mr. Trump and the state’s top elections official.
During the call, the president warned of a “criminal offense” if the state could not find the votes that would hand him the state’s 16 Electoral College votes.
Mr. Perdue was confident on Sunday that Mr. Trump would focus on the senators in his appearance “because he knows what’s at stake.” During an interview on Fox News, Mr. Perdue said if the two Democrats won, Georgians would see a “radical socialist and very dangerous agenda” out of Washington.
If the Republican candidates win, Mr. Biden will face gridlock in the Senate and struggle to pass legislation.
Former president Barack Obama cast Tuesday’s runoff elections in Georgia as an existential struggle for core democratic institutions, hours after a recording was made public of President Trump pressuring an official of the state to “find” enough votes to overturn his loss there.
“Tomorrow is Election Day in Georgia and the stakes could not be higher,” the former president wrote on Twitter on Monday afternoon. “We’re seeing how far some will go to retain power and threaten the fundamental principles of our democracy. But our democracy isn’t about any individual, even a president — it’s about you.”
While his language was somewhat veiled, a person close to Mr. Obama said the statement was in response to the recording, in which Mr. Trump pressured Georgia’s secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, to overturn the results of November’s election.
Late Sunday, when news of the call broke, Mr. Obama’s close friend, former Attorney General Eric Holder, posted a screen capture of the federal statute stipulating that it is a crime, punishable by up to five years in prison, for any “person” to “knowingly and willfully” intimidate, threaten or coerce officials to overturn the results of “a fair and impartially conducted election process.”
Over the last several weeks, Mr. Obama has confined his political tweets to general get-out-the-vote messages on behalf of the Democratic Senate candidates, the Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, and his usual end-of-year social media fare — including lists of his favorite books and songs.
For the first three years of Mr. Trump’s presidency, Mr. Obama steered clear of engaging with his successor directly, emerging only to counter falsehoods and unsubstantiated claims, including Mr. Trump’s charge that the former president personally authorized the wiretapping of Trump Tower in 2016.
That all changed during the homestretch of the 2020 general election campaign, when Mr. Obama delivered an impassioned denunciation of Mr. Trump during the virtual Democratic National Convention.
Later, Mr. Obama embarked on a brief end-of-campaign barnstorming tour on behalf of Democrats in which he ridiculed Mr. Trump — going so far as to suggest his demand for affirmation stemmed from lackluster attendance at his childhood birthday parties.
“Did no one come to his birthday party as a kid?” Mr. Obama asked during an appearance in Michigan in late October.
Georgia elections officials have received at least two requests for investigations into whether President Trump violated state laws prohibiting election interference in his phone call Saturday with Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. But as of early Monday afternoon, it appeared no such investigation had been opened.
On Sunday, The Washington Post, followed by other news outlets, reported that Mr. Trump, in a recorded phone call, had asked Mr. Raffensperger to “find” him enough votes to overturn the presidential election results in Georgia, and appeared to vaguely threaten Mr. Raffensperger with “a criminal offense.” A number of lawyers have since said that Mr. Trump may have violated state and federal laws, but said that such charges may prove difficult to pursue.
On Sunday evening, the lone Democrat on Georgia’s five-member state elections board wrote a letter to Mr. Raffensperger requesting that his office open an investigation to determine whether Mr. Trump had violated state law.
Then, on Monday, the state board of elections received a complaint from John F. Banzhaf III, a law professor at George Washington University. Mr. Banzhaf also requested an investigation, citing three specific state statutes dealing with the commission of election fraud and interference with state officials’ performance of election duties.
Mr. Raffensperger, as secretary of state, serves as chair of the five-person state elections board, and in many cases, investigators in his office would start an investigation based on such complaints.
In an interview Monday morning on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” the host George Stephanopoulos asked Mr. Raffensperger, a Republican, if he would open an investigation into Mr. Trump’s phone call.
Mr. Raffensperger said that because he had been on the call, he might have a conflict of interest, and suggested instead that such an investigation might be in the works by the Fulton County district attorney.
“I understand that the Fulton County district attorney wants to look at it. Maybe that’s the appropriate venue,” Mr. Raffensperger said.
Mr. Raffensperger’s office did not return queries Monday from The Times asking for clarification as to whether he would indeed formally step back from the matter. Mr. Raffensperger’s office is planning a news conference at 3 p.m. at the state Capitol in Atlanta.
Fani Willis, the district attorney for Fulton County, has not yet opened an investigation, said Jeff DiSantis, a spokesman for Ms. Willis and the incoming deputy district attorney. Mr. DiSantis said that his office had not yet received a formal notification from Mr. Raffensperger that he wished to hand off the decision. Mr. DiSantis noted that the office of the state attorney general, Christopher M. Carr, might also have jurisdiction over such a matter.
Mr. Carr’s office did not respond to a request for comment Monday.
In a prepared statement, Ms. Willis said that she found Mr. Trump’s conversation with the secretary of state “disturbing.”
“Once the investigation is complete, this matter, like all matters, will be handled by our office based on the facts and the law,” she said.
The call by President Trump on Saturday to Georgia’s secretary of state raised the prospect that Mr. Trump may have violated laws that prohibit interference in federal or state elections, but lawyers said on Sunday that it would be difficult to pursue such a charge.
The recording of the conversation between Mr. Trump and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger of Georgia, first reported by The Washington Post, led a number of election and criminal defense lawyers to conclude that by pressuring Mr. Raffensperger to “find” the votes he would need to reverse the election outcome in the state, Mr. Trump either broke the law or came close to it.
“It seems to me like what he did clearly violates Georgia statutes,” said Leigh Ann Webster, an Atlanta criminal defense lawyer, citing a state law that makes it illegal for anyone who “solicits, requests, commands, importunes or otherwise attempts to cause the other person to engage” in election fraud.
At the federal level, anyone who “knowingly and willfully deprives, defrauds or attempts to deprive or defraud the residents of a state of a fair and impartially conducted election process” is breaking the law.
Matthew T. Sanderson, a Republican election lawyer who has worked on several presidential campaigns — including those of Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky and Rick Perry, the former Texas governor — said that while it did appear that Mr. Trump was trying to intimidate Mr. Raffensperger, it was not clear that he violated the law.
That is because while Mr. Trump clearly implied that Mr. Raffensperger might suffer legal consequences if he did not find additional votes for the president in Georgia, Mr. Trump stopped short of saying he would deliver on the threat himself against Mr. Raffensperger and his legal counsel, Ryan Germany, Mr. Sanderson said.
ATLANTA — As hundreds of millions of dollars have been pumped into Georgia for a runoff election that will determine which party controls the Senate, few groups have been as vigorously pursued as young voters.
Voter registration efforts and political campaigns have tried to reach them through TikTok videos, poetry readings and drive-in events with celebrities. College Republicans have had phone-banking competitions, while other volunteer groups have approached young voters on dating apps, such as Tinder.
The work has paid off. More than 75,000 new voters registered ahead of the runoffs, more than half of them under the age of 35. Campaigns put an intense focus on 23,000 young people who were not old enough to vote in November but are qualified to do so in the runoffs.
Early voting began in mid-December, and so far, more than three million people have cast their ballots — about 75 percent of the early votes cast in November’s general election, which set turnout records. Over 360,000 early voters in the runoffs were between the ages of 18 and 29, according to data maintained by GeorgiaVotes.com.
The intense interest surrounding the Senate races has reached across party lines.
“I think that young voters have felt so disconnected from politics, and their voice was not heard,” said Bryson Henriott, a sophomore at the University of Georgia and the political director for the College Republicans chapter. “They’re the ones door-knocking for these campaigns, they are the ones on social media. Now that young people feel like they have a voice in politics, they’re going to stay focused.”
After four years of enabling and appeasing President Trump, Republicans find themselves at the end of his tenure in exactly the place they had so desperately tried to avoid: a toxic internecine brawl over his conduct and character that could badly damage their party.
The challenge to President-elect Joseph R. Biden’s decisive victory in the Electoral College, undertaken by dozens of Republicans in the House and Senate, has no chance of succeeding. But many of Mr. Trump’s supporters — the voters who will decide the fate of Republican members of Congress in the coming years — believe it can, egged on by his allies on social media and in the far-right press.
Late Sunday, one of Mr. Trump’s most dogged Republican defenders, Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, a potential 2024 presidential candidate, tried to tamp down those expectations, announcing in a statement that he “will not oppose the counting of certified electoral votes on Jan. 6.” Mr. Cotton invoked the nation’s founders, saying they “entrusted the election of our president to the people, acting through the Electoral College — not Congress.”
Even though he went out of his way to praise Mr. Trump personally, the president warned Mr. Cotton on Twitter that Republican voters “NEVER FORGET!”
The extraordinary conflict among congressional Republicans has significant implications in the short and long term. With their Senate power on the line in Georgia in two days, Republicans entered the new Congress on Sunday bitterly divided.
Top party officials quietly pushed back against what all sides conceded would be a futile effort to reject the election results. Most Republicans were publicly mum on Sunday, but some were becoming more alarmed and more outspoken.
“It is difficult to conceive of a more anti-democratic and anti-conservative act than a federal intervention to overturn the results of state-certified elections and disenfranchise millions of Americans,” Paul D. Ryan, the former House speaker and Republican from Wisconsin, said in a statement on Sunday.
Representative Liz Cheney, the third-ranking Republican, circulated a lengthy memo calling the move “exceptionally dangerous.”
As the clash unfolded, newly disclosed recordings of Mr. Trump trying to pressure state officials in Georgia to reverse his loss there reflected how intent he was on finding enough votes to cling to power and what little regard he had for the fortunes of his party, whose Senate majority hangs on the outcome of two runoffs in the state on Tuesday.
In an interview on Monday, Sen. Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican who plans to challenge the results, termed Mr. Trump’s brazen effort to “find” enough votes to win “not a helpful call.”
All 10 living former defense secretaries warned in an op-ed on Sunday against involving the military in election disputes and urged leaders at the Defense Department to facilitate a smooth transition with the incoming administration.
The op-ed, published by The Washington Post, was an extraordinary public statement from a group of officials who served presidents from both parties. Its signatories included President Trump’s two Senate-confirmed defense secretaries, James N. Mattis and Mark T. Esper, as well as former Vice President Dick Cheney.
The former defense secretaries weighed in with one voice as Mr. Trump continues to make baseless claims about the election and refuses to recognize his defeat.
“Our elections have occurred,” they wrote. “Recounts and audits have been conducted. Appropriate challenges have been addressed by the courts. Governors have certified the results. And the Electoral College has voted. The time for questioning the results has passed; the time for the formal counting of the Electoral College votes, as prescribed in the Constitution and statute, has arrived.”
In the op-ed, the former secretaries — who served under Mr. Trump and Presidents Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George Bush and Gerald R. Ford — said unequivocally that the military had no role to play in settling election-related controversies.
“Efforts to involve the U.S. armed forces in resolving election disputes would take us into dangerous, unlawful and unconstitutional territory,” they wrote. “Civilian and military officials who direct or carry out such measures would be accountable, including potentially facing criminal penalties, for the grave consequences of their actions on our republic.”
Retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn, the former national security adviser whom Mr. Trump recently pardoned, suggested on the conservative television network Newsmax last month that Mr. Trump could use the military to “rerun” the election in swing states, and later attended a meeting with the president at the White House.
The former defense secretaries also called for cooperation at the Pentagon during the transition between administrations, an issue that President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his team have complained about. Last week, Mr. Biden said his transition team had faced “obstruction” from the Defense Department.
In the op-ed, the former defense secretaries noted that transitions “can be a moment when the nation is vulnerable to actions by adversaries seeking to take advantage of the situation,” and they said it was critical that the transition at the Pentagon “be carried out fully, cooperatively and transparently.”
President Trump awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to one of his most outspoken Republican defenders in the House, Representative Devin Nunes of California and plans to award another to Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio in the coming days, two officials familiar with his plans said.
The award is the nation’s highest civilian honor, meant to recognize “exceptional contributions” to national security, world peace or cultural and other “significant” endeavors. While presidents have bestowed the honor on members of Congress in the past, it has typically been granted at the end of a lawmaker’s time in public service or in recognition for an unrelated achievement.
In the case of Mr. Nunes and Mr. Jordan, however, Mr. Trump wants to honor the lawmakers for their leading roles in personally defending him against the F.B.I.’s investigation of Russian election interference and the House’s impeachment inquiry, according to the officials, who requested anonymity to discuss plans not yet made public.
Both investigations uncovered wrongdoing by the president and his advisers, but Mr. Trump viewed them as partisan “witch hunts,” demanding his party rally around him to fend them off. Mr. Nunes and Mr. Jordan enthusiastically answered the call, working in public and in private to dig up unflattering information about those investigating the president, including his own Justice Department, which they would then publicize, often with the help of the White House.
The two took a similar approach when Democrats launched an impeachment inquiry into Mr. Trump based on his attempts to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rival, Joseph R. Biden Jr.
Mr. Jordan, a pugnacious force in congressional hearings, became the face of Mr. Trump’s defense on Capitol Hill, ultimately helping to win his acquittal in the Republican-controlled Senate.
The work infuriated Democrats, but it made Mr. Nunes and Mr. Jordan heroes on the right and persuaded many in their party to follow suit. In 2018, Mr. Trump said that Mr. Nunes, then the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, ought to be awarded the Medal of Freedom or the Medal of Honor, which is reserved for military valor, based on his attempts to discredit the Russia investigation.
That Mr. Trump is doing so now, even as he refuses to concede his election defeat, suggests that he recognizes his time in office is limited.
Mr. Nunes received the honor in a ceremony on Monday, and Mr. Trump is likely to bestow it upon Mr. Jordan next week. The Washington Post first reported the awards.
WASHINGTON — Democrats returned Representative Nancy Pelosi of California to the House speakership on Sunday for what may be her final term, handing a tested leader control of the slimmest majority in almost two decades as Washington prepares for a new Democratic president.
The nearly party-line vote punctuated an opening day marked more by precaution than pomp, as the 117th Congress convened under the threat of a deadly pandemic and awaited a pair of Senate runoffs in Georgia that will determine control of that chamber. Several House members sick with Covid-19 missed the session altogether and others cast their votes from behind a plexiglass enclosure specially constructed in a gallery overlooking the chamber.
Her victory means that after two years as President Trump’s most outspoken antagonist, Ms. Pelosi will now be responsible for trying to shepherd through Congress as much of President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s agenda as possible.
“Scripture tells us that to everything, there is a season: a time for every purpose under the heavens; a time to build, a time to sow, a time to heal,” she said in a speech after winning the speakership. “Now is certainly a time for our nation to heal. Our most urgent priority will continue to be defeating the coronavirus. And defeat it, we will.”
It will be no easy task. With her party in control of just 222 of 435 seats, Ms. Pelosi can afford to lose only a handful of Democrats on any given vote. Emboldened Republicans are gunning to retake the majority in next year’s midterm elections and are in no mood to extend an olive branch.
Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the Republican leader, used his own remarks before presenting Ms. Pelosi the gavel to torch Democrats’ record in the majority and effectively declare the beginning of the campaign to wrest power from them.
“It has been said that a house divided cannot stand,” he said. “Well, if there is any lesson Americans have learned in the last two years, it’s this: A House distracted cannot govern.”
President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s incoming national security adviser said on Sunday that the new administration would move quickly to renew the last remaining major nuclear arms treaty with Russia, even while seeking to make President Vladimir V. Putin pay for what appeared to be the largest-ever hacking of U.S. government networks.
In an interview on “GPS” on CNN, Jake Sullivan, who at 44 will become the youngest national security adviser in more than a half century, also said that as soon as Iran re-entered compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal — which he helped negotiate under President Barack Obama — there would be a “follow-on negotiation” over its missile capabilities.
“In that broader negotiation, we can ultimately secure limits on Iran’s ballistic missile technology,” Mr. Sullivan said, “and that is what we intend to try to pursue through diplomacy.”
He did not mention that missiles were not covered in the previous accord because the Iranians refused to commit to any limitations on their development or testing. To bridge the impasse, the United Nations passed a weakly worded resolution that called on Tehran to show restraint; the Iranians say it is not binding, and they have ignored it.
Taken together, Mr. Sullivan’s two statements indicated how quickly the new administration would be immersed in two complex arms control issues, even as Mr. Biden seeks to deal with the coronavirus pandemic and the economic shocks it has caused.
BRUSSELS — President Trump’s extraordinary, wheedling telephone call to state officials in Georgia seeking to overturn the election results there has shaken many Europeans — not so much for what it reveals about Mr. Trump himself, but for what it may portend for the health of American democracy.
Foreign leaders are looking forward, but many worry that the Trump effect will last for years, damaging trust in American predictability and reliability.
“A lot of people will just roll their eyes and wait for the clock to run down,” said Leslie Vinjamuri, director of the U.S. and Americas program at Chatham House, the British research institution. “But by far the most troubling thing is the number of Republicans who are willing to go along with him, and what it’s doing to the Republican Party, playing out in real time.”
A group of House Republicans has vowed to challenge Biden’s Electoral College win on Wednesday when Congress meets to certify it, and at least a dozen Republican senators are expected to join them, forcing a vote though it is all but certain to fail.
The dangers that entails for foreign allies are manifold and will not be easily dispelled even with a new president. But they are raising special concerns before Mr. Trump exits.
Patrick Chevallereau, a former French military officer now at RUSI, a defense research institution in London, said that the Trump call “shows that the current president is in a mind-set to do anything — absolutely anything — before Jan. 20. There is zero standard, zero reference, zero ethics.”
And Laurence Nardon, head of the North America program at the French Institute of International Relations in Paris, said that America’s soft power and democratic example is damaged by Mr. Trump’s behavior.
But he added, “I think we have understood that his practice of power is an exception, even if his election is not an accident.”
Two high-stakes Senate runoffs in Georgia are concluding with a test of how much the politics have shifted in a state that no longer resembles its Deep South neighbors.
Should the two challengers win Tuesday and hand Democrats control of the Senate, it will be with the same multiracial and heavily metropolitan support that propelled President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. to victory in Georgia and nationally. And if the Republican incumbents prevail, it will be because they pile up margins in conservative regions, just as President Trump did.
That is a marked change from the 2000 election, when George W. Bush won decisively in the Atlanta suburbs to take the state and Democrats still ran competitively with right-of-center voters in much of rural North and South Georgia.
After resisting the tide of Republicanism longer than in other parts of the South — it did not elect its first governor from the party until 2002 — Georgia became a reliably red state in the nearly two decades since. But now, it is fast turning into a political microcosm of the country.
Although Georgia still skews slightly to the right of America’s political center, it has become politically competitive for the same demographic reasons the country is closely divided: Democrats have become dominant in big cities and suburban areas but they suffer steep losses in the lightly populated regions that once elected governors, senators and, in Georgia, a native-born president, Jimmy Carter.
“Georgia is now a reflection of the country,” said Keith Mason, a former chief of staff to Zell Miller, a Democratic governor and U.S. senator from a small town in North Georgia.