Minutes after the polls closed in Georgia, it became obvious that Brian Kemp was on a winning trajectory. In fact, before 8:10, my friends at Decision Desk HQ called the race.
By 8:35, the original frontrunner Casey Cagle had called Kemp to concede.
Cagle was supposed to have won this race. He was supposed to have won the primary with more than 50% outright back in May. Cagle [won the primary](https://ballotpedia.org/Georgia_gubernatorial_election,2018(May_22_Republican_primary%29) by more than 14 points, beating Kemp 38.95% to 25.52%. Now he has lost the runoff in spectacular fashion.
What went wrong?
Kemp's win (and Cagle's loss) began even before the May primary. There are two ways to win as a frontrunner: build your brand, or protect your brand. Cagle did neither. He tried to over-engineer the race, attacking Hunter Hill and Clay Tippens (the 3rd and 4th finishers) to ensure if there was a runoff it would be against Kemp. That drove Tippens and Hill, along with their supporters, to Kemp. In fact, every single candidate in the Republican primary joined Kemp's side against Cagle.
Cagle ran as Darth Casey.
On the other hand, Kemp ran nearly the perfect come-from-behind race. He began by getting attention in the national press, with his teen-date-my-daughter shotgun ad. That connected with Georgians while causing bicoastal national media (liberals) to melt their own faces. He followed up with a "hold my beer while I blow stuff up" ad. They were funny, hokey, and a bit cringey to some, but those ads accomplished their purpose.
Kemp spared his negativity for head-to-head debates, only followed by political geeks and statewide news media. Sound bites win elections.
That began Kemp's momentum, and it never stopped.
It helped Kemp that Clay Tippens recorded Casey Cagle being very political. Did Cagle say anything wrong? No...he was just a flip-flopping politician, reinforcing the Darth Casey image. It's interesting that Kemp never used that Tippens recording in his advertising.
And then there was Trump. Not that it mattered. In the last week of the race, Governor Nathan Deal endorsed Cagle, his Lt. Governor. Not surprising, but Deal said he was going to stay out of the race. Cagle began running ads playing the "Kemp isn't a Trump supporter" card. This, plus Kemp's role (not necessarily planned) in cementing Trump's primary path to the presidency through the SEC primary, caused the president to jump in the race and endorse Kemp.
I think Kemp would have won without the presidential endorsement. But with it, well, the results speak for themselves. With the exception of Stephens County, Kemp may very well take every single county in Georgia. Political scientists will be using this race as a case study for decades on how to run as a come from behind candidate, and how not to run as a frontrunner.
Brian Kemp should be the next Governor of Georgia. He won it fair and square.