The Georgia Senate race was one of the most competitive in the country, with polls remaining tight all the way up to Election Day.
Both candidates tried to present themselves as political outsiders at a time when public approval of Congress has been at record lows. Perdue ran on his record as a businessman and former CEO of Reebok, textile company Pillowtex, and discount chain Dollar General. But his business record also served as fodder for his opponent, who railed against Perdue for outsourcing jobs.
Nunn, who’s spent her career working for non-profits, is also a political newcomer. But she tried to cast herself in the mold of her father, former Sen. Sam Nunn, who remains revered in Georgia as a problem-solving centrist who was willing to reach across the aisle.
As elsewhere in the country, Perdue tried throughout the campaign to tie Nunn to President Obama, whose approval ratings have fallen sharply in recent months. Nunn tried to keep Washington Democrats at an arm’s length: While she campaigned on major Democratic priorities like the minimum wage, she also dodged the question of whether she would have voted for Obamacare.
“If you talk to Georgians they’ll say over and over again we’re tired of the partisanship, the rancor, the animus and the bad feeling. And people know in order to get things done we need to work together,” Nunn told msnbc’s Joy Reid about her campaign theme of reaching across the aisle.
This was one of numerous Senate races Tuesday where the political climate was just too much for the Democrat to overcome. According to the NBC News exit poll in Georgia, 56% of voters said government is doing too many things better left to businesses and individuals. Just 40% said government should do more to solve problems.
There is similar sentiment in views of the Affordable Care Act – 51% of Georgia voters felt it went too far. Just 19% said it was about right, and 24% said it did not go far enough. Also, 36% of Georgia voters said one reason for their Senate vote was to express opposition to Obama, outnumbering the 19% who said their vote was in support of the president.
There was also a hotly contested race for Georgia governor. Democratic state senator Jason Carter, former President Jimmy Carter’s grandson, was defeated by GOP Gov. Nathan Deal, who resigned from Congress to run for the seat.
Georgia swung for Mitt Romney by 8 points in 2012, but the state’s rapidly changing demographics have emboldened Democrats to try to turn the Peach State blue. In recent years, the state has seen rapid growth in its black, Hispanic, Asian, and immigrant communities, all populations that tend to favor Democrats.
Democrats have tried to turn those shifting tide into a bigger, broader base for the party. The New Georgia Project, led by Georgia House Minority Leader Stacy Abrams, and other outside groups registered about 86,000 new voters, about 60% of whom were under the age of 30, Abrams said. But the groups also said that tens of thousands of these applicants didn’t show up on the voter rolls, raising concerns about whether the new applicants would actually be allowed to vote on election day.
Georgia Democrats remain hopeful these voters will ultimately help them turn the tide in a state that’s been solidly red for the past decade. “Georgia is a battleground state—The conservation has been, when will it happen,” Abrams said, a few hours before polls closed.
NBC News election unit contributed reporting.