Cobb County, a longtime GOP stronghold, will be critical for Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in Georgia’s December runoff

  • Cobb County, a one-time GOP stronghold, is now critical for Democrats running statewide in Georgia.
  • As of Wednesday, Warnock has a 57%-40.5% countywide lead over Walker in the Senate contest.
  • Warnock’s strong suburban support will be key as he again faces Walker in a Dec. 6 runoff election.

Sen. Raphael Warnock on Tuesday emerged narrowly ahead of Republican challenger Herschel Walker in the state’s high-profile Senate contest, but DDHQ and Insider have projected that the contest will head to a December 6 runoff since neither candidate exceeded 50% of the vote.

Looking at the election results, Cobb County — a key suburban Atlanta locality — is poised to become a powerful source of support for Warnock next month and for Democrats running in statewide elections going forward.

With over 95% of county precincts reporting in the Senate race, Warnock was leading Walker by nearly 17 points (57%-40.5%) in Cobb County. The current raw vote total is 175,387 votes for Warnock to 125,324 votes for Walker, an advantage of over 50,000 votes in this jurisdiction for the incumbent.

Warnock currently leads Walker statewide 49.4%-48.5%, with 1,941,292 votes for the Democrat and 1,906,210 votes for his GOP opponent, a difference of 35,000 votes — which reveals that the senator’s statewide lead can be attributed to his strength in Cobb.

But despite Warnock’s robust margin in Cobb, the margin hasn’t been transferable to every Democrat.

Former Georgia state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams on Tuesday was defeated by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in a rematch of their 2018 race, and with most Cobb precincts reporting, she only won the locality by 5 percentage points — or roughly 15,000 votes — a significant dropoff in performance compared to Warnock.

Which begs the question: why has Cobb County become such a bellwether for statewide Democrats?

For most of the past 20 years, the party tried every conceivable strategy to pick Georgia’s electoral lock, nominating a mix of liberal, moderate, and conservative candidates, only to see the GOP consistently win statewide offices.

But something dramatic was happening behind the scenes to threaten the easy victories long enjoyed by Republicans. The suburbs surrounding Atlanta, many of which were some of the first places in the state to loosen the segregation-era Democratic Party’s grip on political power in the 1960s, began to explode in population growth.

Cobb — the onetime home base of former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich and a locality that gave over 77% of its votes to Ronald Reagan in 1984 — narrowly voted for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election. And then Abrams edged out Kemp in the county in her narrow 2018 gubernatorial loss.

In 2020, President Joe Biden, Warnock, and now-Sen. Jon Ossoff all won the county by double digits, with Warnock and Ossoff also going on to win the county overwhelmingly in their respective 2021 runoff elections.

In the 2000 Census, more than seven out of 10 Cobb voters were white, and the county’s politics were decidedly conservative.

But based on US Census 2021 population estimates, the county had become a multi-ethnic melting pot, with the non-Hispanic white population declining to roughly 50%, along with a Black population of 29%, a Hispanic population nearing 14%, and an Asian population of nearly 6%.

Despite Biden’s victory against then-President Donald Trump in 2020, the state remains heavily polarized between its urban and rural areas. Biden only won the state by roughly 12,000 votes out of nearly 5 million ballots cast.

While cities like Atlanta, Augusta, Columbus, and Savannah generally provide huge vote margins to Democratic candidates, counties in the state’s conservative centers of North Georgia and Middle Georgia continue to overwhelmingly back GOP nominees — again highlighting the critical nature that Cobb’s margins will play in the December runoff and in future statewide races.