How Trump won Georgia and other takeaways from a stunning night

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump pauses while speaking during a campaign rally in Jacksonville, Fla., on Thursday. AP/ Evan Vucci

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump pauses while speaking during a campaign rally in Jacksonville, Fla., on Thursday. AP/ Evan Vucci

Donald Trump scored an epic upset victory over Hillary Clinton early Wednesday, notching victories in most battleground states while keeping Georgia firmly in the Republican column.

The Republican’s stunning performance included a 5-point win in Georgia that was not as clear-cut as it seemed. The networks and The Associated Press called North Carolina, Ohio and Florida before Georgia, largely because of the surprising result in metro Atlanta.

Here are some of the top takeaways from Georgia’s electoral results:

A stunning metro Atlanta flip. Before Tuesday, Democrats would have told you flipping Gwinnett County would mean an overwhelming win for Clinton in Georgia. As it turned out, Clinton flipped Gwinnett, Henry – and even the GOP stronghold of Cobb – and still was trounced statewide. Why? He was able to run up the score in other conservative bastions, including huge wins in Columbia and Hall counties.

The Republican ground game in Georgia is still tops. At a final pre-election rally on Monday, Georgia GOP chair John Padgett scoffed at a report that Democrats made more than 420,000 calls and knocked on nearly 100,000 doors. He wasn’t the only one. We quickly received numbers from Trump operatives showing their volunteers made contact with nearly 2 million voters. And they said they staked a nearly 100,000 vote advantage in absentee ballots and early voting. It showed on Tuesday, when Trump won the state by about 250,000 votes.

David Perdue (right), with Gov. Nathan Deal (left) and Georgia Republican party chairman John Padgett (center). Bob Andres, bandres@ajc.com

David Perdue (right), with Gov. Nathan Deal (left) and Georgia Republican party chairman John Padgett (center). Bob Andres, bandres@ajc.com

Democrats will seek to salvage a silver lining. Georgia Democrats will cast the 6-point defeat as a victory of sorts, narrowing their 8-point defeat in 2012. They’ll point to rising minority registration numbers, the flipping of metro Atlanta counties and wins in a handful of legislative seats as evidence the party has new vitality. And they’ll try to capitalize on the failure of the schools initiative, which brings us to our next point.

Gov. Nathan Deal gets a stinging electoral rebuke. The governor put his failing schools initiative at the center of his second-term agenda, and it was trounced at the polls amid solid opposition from both Democrats and Republicans. Deal will note the more than $5 million spent by opponents to tank the bid, and he’s already drafted a Plan B. But expect the efforts by his critics to paint him as an ineffective lame-duck to only intensify.

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA). (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA). (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Johnny Isakson was even more popular than Trump in Georgia. The Republican senator easily won a third-term, avoiding a runoff against Democrat Jim Barksdale by earning a whopping 55 percent of the vote. And he won by outperforming Trump by nearly 40,000 votes. But that’s not because Libertarian Gary Johnson’s supporters flipped to Isakson in the Senate race; Allen Buckley, the third-party candidate in the Senate race, actually outperformed Johnson. Instead, the numbers suggest Isakson benefited from split-ticket Democrats.

Here’s more of the AJC’s election night coverage:

Breaking: Donald Trump wins Georgia

Johnny Isakson cruises to third term in U.S. Senate

All of Georgia’s congressmen appear poised for reelection


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