ATLANTA – A new poll for the first time shows Democrat Raphael Warnock leading the crowded field vying to complete the U.S. Senate term of retired Georgia Sen. Johnny Isakson.
Support for Warnock, the pastor at Atlanta’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church, stood at 31% in a poll released Tuesday by the independent Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, appointed to the Senate by Gov. Brian Kemp last December on an interim basis, was second with 23%, followed by U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, at 22%.
Loeffler has held a narrow lead in recent polls of the Senate race, but Warnock has introduced himself to voters in recent weeks with a mostly positive TV ad campaign and has picked up endorsements from prominent Democrats, including former presidents Barack Obama and Georgia’s Jimmy Carter.
Many Democratic leaders have been urging Democrat Matt Lieberman, the son of former Sen. Joe Lieberman, to pull out of the race and leave the Democratic field to Warnock. The Quinnipiac poll had Lieberman running fourth with 9% of the vote.
Loeffler and Collins have been conducting a bitter battle for support from Republican voters, which has split the Georgia GOP and increased the Democrats’ chances of flipping the seat.
With 21 candidates running, a runoff in January is likely between the top two vote-getters on Nov. 3. To win outright in November, the first-place candidate must capture more than 50% of the vote.
Meanwhile, Georgia’s two other key races remain too close to call. According to the Quinnipiac poll, Democrat Joe Biden holds a narrow lead in the Peach State over Republican President Donald Trump, 50% to 47%. That’s close to the poll’s margin of error of plus-or-minus 2.9%.
The last Democratic presidential candidate to carry Georgia was Bill Clinton back in 1992.
And in Georgia’s other U.S. Senate race, Democratic challenger Jon Ossoff is barely ahead of incumbent Republican Sen. David Perdue, 49% to 48%, well within the poll’s margin of error.
“This Georgia race looms as one of several that could shift the balance of power in the U.S. Senate,” said Quinnipiac University Polling Analyst Tim Malloy.
The presidential race in Georgia reveals wide gaps in support for the two candidates among demographic groups. Trump is dominating among men 56% to 41%, according to the Quinnipiac poll, while Biden leads among women 57% to 39%.
Trump is the overwhelming choice among white voters 67% to 31%, while Biden’s support among Black voters is even more lop-sided at 89% to 7%.
Georgia independents are backing Biden over Trump 51% to 42%
Quinnipiac interviewed 1,125 likely voters in Georgia, who were surveyed Sept. 23-27.