ATLANTA — As Sen. Raphael Warnock ran up a margin of victory of nearly 2% in his reelection contest against Herschel Walker, his strength in the core metro Atlanta counties stood out.
The Democratic incumbent considerably outperformed his November margin against Walker on Tuesday night in all of Fulton County (+4.1 percentage points), Gwinnett (+3.8), DeKalb (+3.3), Cobb (+2.7) and Clayton (+2).
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Warnock, in fact, saw improved margins in the runoff - whether he won the county or not - in virtually every corner of the state, except for north Georgia (see the map below, compiled by 11Alive's Nick Wooten).
Whether it was in deep blue Chatham County, home of his native Savannah - where Warnock gained 2.47% from November and Walker lost 0.76%, for a total swing of 3.22% - or in south Georgia's red Lowndes County (Valdosta), which shifted 1.46% his way, the Democrat found new pockets of support.
Against that sort of surge, Republican challenger Walker needed the Peach State's biggest red counties to deliver similar support for him to have a chance of winning.
In many of those counties, that support did not materialize.
Take Lowndes, for instance. Walker won the state 58.5% to 41.5%, a strong margin of victory of 17%. But in November, the Republican had 58.4% and Warnock only had 40%, a larger 18.4% margin.
Despite being reliably red, Warnock's standing in Lowndes County improved by 1.4 points from November to the runoff.
Similar patterns repeated across many of the major conservative population centers:
In metro Atlanta:
- Forsyth County: 64.8-32.3% in favor of Walker in November, 65.7-34.3% on Tuesday, a swing of 1.1 points toward Warnock.
- Paulding County: 61.0-36.6% in Nov., 61.8-38.2% on Tuesday; +0.8 points toward Warnock.
- Carroll County: 68.6-28.9% in Nov., 69.7-30.3% on Tuesday; +0.3 points toward Warnock.
- Coweta County: 65.5-31.8% in Nov., 66.8-33.3% on Tuesday; +0.2 points toward Warnock.
- Cherokee County: 67.5-29.3% in Nov., 69.1-30.9 on Tuesday; no change in margin.
Columbia County, just outside Augusta, was one of the most disappointing counties for Walker. He won the county by 26.7 points in November, and just 25.4 points on Tuesday - a 1.3-point swing toward Warnock.
In southeast Georgia, it was a similar tale: Glynn County swung 2.4 points toward Warnock (Walker won the county by 27 points in November, 24.6 points on Tuesday) and Bulloch County swung 1.2 points his way (28.4-point margin in Nov., 27.2-point margin Tuesday).
There were notable exceptions - Walker improved his margins by 1-1.3 points in large, red exurban Atlanta counties such as Hall, Floyd and Bartow. In Effingham County, outside Savannah, he improved his margin by 0.8 points.
But given Warnock's huge gains in big blue counties, this kind of tepid backing in the most important red counties simply wasn't survivable for Walker's campaign.