Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
When Atlantans went to the polls two weeks, 46% voted for Mary Norwood for mayor. Today, 46% of Atlantans support Mary Norwood for mayor according to a new poll, which is bad news for the city council member. Jim Galloway of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution explains:
SurveyUSA, conductor of the poll, gives former state senator Kasim Reed a nominal 49 percent to 46 percent advantage over Councilwoman Mary Norwood, within the survey's 4.5 percent margin of error.
Norwood is precisely where she was the week before the first round of voting on Nov. 3. Reed pulled 36 percent of ballots in the first round.
You can consider this week the last before voters begin to unplug for the Thanksgiving holidays. So the poll is significant. But its true importance -- and its accuracy -- is hard to gauge, simply because turnout for a vote five days after T-Day is likely to be so darned small, and thus, volatile.
What's happened is that the supporters of Lisa Borders, who placed third in the first round of voting, have flocked to Reed. It would be easy to explain that as a matter of racial politics: Borders and Reed are black, Norwood is white.
But, it's just as plausible that party is the key consideration. Reed hasn't just been picking up endorsements from key African-Americans such as Borders. He's also winning support from people like former Democratic governor (and current gubernatorial candidate) Roy Barnes, who is white.
Norwood is an independent. The new poll shows Democrats (many of whom do happen to be black) rallying behind Reed. Norwood was receiving 38% of the Democratic vote in a poll from SurveyUSA before the first round of voting (that poll correctly forecast the 46% of the vote she would receive). Today's SurveyUSA poll has her down to 30% with Democrats, even though voters have thinned the field to just two candidates.
Many observers, myself included, have framed this election as a test of whether Atlanta has changed enough demographically to elect a white mayor. In reality, though, the question is whether Atlanta is willing to elect a white person who lacks clear ties to the Democratic Party or much institutional support. When you put it like that, the real question might be how Mary Norwood is doing as well as she is.
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