ATLANTA — Joe Biden led Democrats in flipping Georgia for the first time in nearly three decades as voters rendered their verdict on President Donald Trump’s four years in office.
Biden captured Georgia’s 16 electoral votes for Democrats for the first time since 1992 with an intense late push for the state that included his own visit to the state in the final week of the campaign, as well as those by running mate Kamala Harris and former President Barack Obama.
ABC, CNN and NBC projected the victory on Friday, as county election officials began an unprecedented statewide recount of the nearly 5 million ballots cast in the presidential race.
Trump had waged a tough fight to keep Georgia in the Republican column, staging a rally in the deeply conservative northwestern corner of the state two days before the election to mobilize the party faithful. His campaign considered Georgia a must win, while Biden’s camp saw it as another path to 270 Electoral College votes.
Though Biden had clinched the presidency on Saturday when national networks projected he captured Pennsylvania, the victory in Georgia was a capstone moment for Democrats, who haven’t won a statewide seat here since 2006. And it was the most decisive signal yet that Georgia has joined the ranks of swing states with perennially close election cycles.
It also set the stage for the state’s next big political test: twin runoffs on Jan. 5 for control of the U.S. Senate. Jon Ossoff forced Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue into overtime, while Democrat Raphael Warnock will face U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler.
Biden surpassed Trump in the vote count early Thursday as mail-in ballots from densely populated counties slowly but steadily ate into an early cushion Trump built with Election Day returns across more rural stretches of Georgia. Tallies of absentee ballots in Clayton County put Biden over the top to stay.
But the networks didn’t call the race for Georgia until later, as provisional, overseas and military votes were tallied.
Trump’s campaign is planning to request a recount of the vote, and it has tapped U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, who ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate, to lead the effort. That can’t take place until the vote is certified by the state, which is set to happen by Nov. 20. State officials and political leaders from both parties don’t expect the recount to change the outcome of the race.
Democrats won by holding ground in once-reliably Republican suburbs that the party flipped four years ago while also cutting into GOP margins in some exurban counties ringing Atlanta.
Georgia has become one of the nation’s most important political battlegrounds, a new reality that came into sharp focus in the final days of the race when big-name political figures flocked to the state to deliver last-minute pitches.
In the span of a week, Biden delivered closing remarks in the west Georgia town of Warm Springs, Harris stumped in Gwinnett County, Trump rallied in Rome and Obama energized Democrats in Atlanta.
It was a drastic change for voters in Georgia who were long used to being overlooked. Republicans John McCain and Mitt Romney easily captured Georgia in their races against Obama, and Trump defeated Hillary Clinton by 5 percentage points without a single visit from either presidential candidate in the final stretch of the 2016 campaign.