Both Republicans and Democrats in Georgia believe Major League Baseball's decision to move the All-Star Game out of Atlanta this summer over GOP Gov. Brian Kemp's voter suppression laws will politically profit them, but as with baseball, only one side gets to win the game in the end.
Brian Robinson, a GOP strategist skilled in explaining the state’s Republican base to a mainstream audience, predicted it could be a singular moment in the 2022 race.
“The Democrats in one week have united a fractured Georgia GOP, rallied Republicans to Brian Kemp at a time when many had abandoned him and appalled the same independent voters who broke heavily toward them last year,” he said, before invoking Kemp’s likely 2022 rival.
“Stacey Abrams couldn’t have done more for Brian Kemp’s reelection hopes if she’d written a $10 million check to his super PAC.”
There was one Republican who didn’t stick to the same GOP script on Friday: Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan. In a statement, the former minor league pitcher said he disagreed with Commissioner Rob Manfred’s decision but respected the outcome.
Then Duncan repeated what he’s said since November: He criticized Trump for promoting lies about Georgia’s election, saying the post-election misinformation campaign “continues to manifest itself and divide our nation.”
“And now, misinformation surrounding Georgia’s new elections reform has furthered that divide – even reaching MLB baseball.”
To be clear, Duncan’s stance is no surprise. He was one of the first elected GOP leaders to loudly debunk the pro-Trump conspiracy theories, and it earned him the enmity of the former president. Earlier this year, he refused to preside over the vote on a previous, and more restrictive, proposal.
But Duncan’s comments raise even more questions about his chances in 2022, when he’s up for another term, and his plans to promote a “GOP 2.0.” As one senior Republican official posited, Duncan’s statement was a “weird way to announce you aren’t seeking re-election.”
State Democrats want to make Georgia the poster child for federal voting legislation that’s stalling in Congress, and party leaders hope the white-hot spotlight on the new law helps them build their case.
U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, facing another election next year, said Friday’s fallout only proves the federal overhaul is needed more urgently. And Abrams, the once-and-likely-future gubernatorial candidate, called on corporate and political leaders to support the voting expansions pending in Congress to “mitigate the harm” in Georgia.
Georgia Democrats also have their eye beyond the U.S. Capitol and the Gold Dome. That’s one of the reasons they’ve stepped up their criticism of the new law and urged major corporations to publicly oppose it even though it’s already in the books.
Dozens of restrictive voting measures are pending in other states, and the pressure campaign aims to force local lawmakers to think twice before passing those laws in other state legislatures, too.
In Texas, for one, legislation that would limit early voting hours and restrict mail-in voting is gaining traction, while Florida legislators could soon consider a measure that would curb the use of drop boxes.
Democrats shaped the national narrative of Georgia’s election measure early, in part because they capitalized on proposed measures that included more far-reaching restrictions that never reached a final vote.
As Duncan, the GOP lieutenant governor, put it: Republicans “fell into the trap set by the left and allowed them to make the bill into something that it’s not.”
Now Democrats have their own challenge: At the start of what could be a growing boycott movement, how do they avoid getting blamed for the economic backlash?
That's what's going to determine the political fallout over this, but remember that Republicans are the one who should be blamed for the outcome of this. Whether they are is another thing entirely.