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Georgia Republican US Senate Primary Runoff By the Numbers

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Turnout dropped only 20 percent from May's runoff in the second closest U.S. Senate primary runoff in Georgia history

davidperdue10.jpgDavid Perdue turned heads Tuesday evening when he escaped with a 1.8-point win over Congressman Jack Kingston in Georgia's Republican U.S. Senate primary runoff.

Perdue, who was the first place plurality finisher in May's primary, had been seen as the slight underdog heading into Primary Runoff Day based on recent polling in the race.

Overall, this was the ninth U.S. Senate primary runoff in Georgia history and the fourth for the Republican Party, which has held only 17 primaries for the office in party history.

Below Smart Politics compiles data to show how the closely watched 2014 race compares to past runoffs in the Peach State.

Competitiveness

Although the contest between Perdue and Kingston was close, it did not provide the narrowest victory margin for a U.S. Senate runoff in state history.

Perdue beat Kingston by 1.8 points, but, in 1992's Republican runoff, Paul Coverdell defeated Bob Barr by just 1.0 point.

Three other runoffs were decided by single digits.

In 1996, Republican Guy Millner defeated Johnny Isakson by 5.6 points and in 1972 Sam Nunn beat incumbent David Gambrell by 4.2 and 8.3 points in runoffs for the special and general election Democratic nominee slots.

The other four runoffs were less competitive:

● In 1980, Democratic incumbent Herman Talmadge beat Zell Miller by 17.2 points
● In 1984, Republican Mike Hicks defeated J.W. Tibbs by 34.2 points
● In 2004, Democrat Denise Majette beat Cliff Oxford by 18.8 points
● In 2008, Democrat Jim Martin was victorious over Vernon Jones by 19.8 points

Turnout

More than 482K voters turned out in the Kingston vs. Perdue runoff Tuesday, which was a drop of only 20.2 percent from the 605K who cast their ballots two months prior in the primary.

That marks the lowest drop among the four GOP U.S. Senate runoffs:

● The 1984 runoff between Mike Hicks and J.W. Tibbs saw turnout fall 62.2 percent
● The 1992 runoff between Paul Coverdell and Bob Barr dropped off 41.0 percent from the primary
● The 1996 runoff between Guy Millner and Johnny Isakson saw turnout drop 28.2 percent

Overall, Tuesday's runoff marked the lowest drop in turnout by either party in a U.S. Senate race since 1980, when nearly a million voters came out in the race between Democratic incumbent Herman Talmadge and Zell Miller - falling only 7.2 percent from the primary three weeks prior.

It should be noted that all nine of these Georgia U.S. Senate runoffs were conducted in presidential election years.

As such, the Senate runoff was the featured event in all cycles - for example, there were no gubernatorial runoffs at the top of the ticket. (Note: In 1996, the Republicans also had a runoff for their Secretary of State nominee).

Vote in Georgia U.S. Senate Primary vs Runoff

Year
Party
Primary
Runoff
Winner
Loser
% Drop
1972
Democrat
716,641
618,084
Sam Nunn
David Gambrell
-13.8
1972 (s)
Democrat
752,207
626,105
Sam Nunn
David Gambrell
-16.8
1980
Democrat
1,029,300
955,388
Herman Talmadge
Zell Miller
-7.2
1984
Republican
67,053
25,323
Mike Hicks
J.W. Tibbs
-62.2
1992
Republican
269,943
159,332
Paul Coverdell
Bob Barr
-41.0
1996
Republican
446,655
320,800
Guy Millner
Johnny Isakson
-28.2
2004
Democrat
625,154
272,259
Denise Majette
Cliff Oxford
-56.4
2008
Democrat
493,266
319,054
Jim Martin
Vernon Jones
-35.3
2014
Republican
605,355
482,917
David Perdue
Jack Kingston
-20.2
Table compiled by Smart Politics with data from the Georgia Official and Statistical Register and Georgia Secretary of State Elections Division.

The Long Runoff Campaign

The 63-day campaign between Georgia's primary and runoff in this year's election cycle is far longer than those involving past runoffs.

The window between the two elections was only 21 days when runoffs were held in Peach State U.S. Senate contests in 1972, 1980, 1984, 1992, 2004, and 2008 and 28 days in 1996.

Of course, this prolonged, nine-week runoff campaign meant Perdue and his allies spent most of their time attacking and trying to improve their position against Kingston, instead of Michelle Nunn who continued to stockpile campaign receipts while waiting in the wings.

As a reminder, only one out of the previous eight first place plurality finishers in a Georgia U.S. Senate primary went on to win both the runoff and the general election (Republican Paul Coverdell in 1992).

Perdue, who recorded the lowest ever support for a first place finisher by either party in a Georgia U.S. Senate primary, has cleared the first hurdle and now turns his attention to Nunn who a recent Landmark Communication poll found leading the former business executive by six points in a head to head matchup.

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Remains of the Data

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