Monday, February 26

Live updates: US midterm election and early voting news

Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp and Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams faced off in their second and final gubernatorial debate Sunday night, with a little more than a week to go before Election Day amid record high early voting.

They sparred over the state’s economy, abortion rights and, in a sign of the race’s national implications, whose party should be blamed for the country’s woes.

Kemp has led in most polling of the race, but Abrams – who came within a few thousand votes of pushing their 2018 race to a run-off – has a strong base of support and has succeeded in helping to mobilize Democrats in her campaigns and those of other high-ranking Democratic candidates, including President Joe Biden and Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in their 2020 campaigns.

Here are some key takeaways from the second gubernatorial debate in Georgia:

A tale of two economies: Is Georgia booming, as Kemp says, or nearing a calamitous bust, as Abrams argued?

The candidates painted vastly different portraits of the economic situation in the state, with Kemp pointing to higher wages and low unemployment – and blaming any pain on inflation, which he attributed to Democratic policies in Washington – while Abrams singled out a low minimum wage and Kemp’s refusal to accept Medicaid expansion funds under Obamacare as twin albatrosses being worn by Georgia’s working class.

The future of abortion rights remains a potent issue: In some sense, the abortion debate is at a standstill in Georgia. The state has a law on the books, passed three years ago, that bans the procedure after about six weeks. And with the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, it’s now in effect.

But Abrams, and the debate moderators, had another question for Kemp: with no federal limits in place, would the Republican, if re-elected, sign further restrictions into law?

Kemp didn’t give a straight, yes or no answer, saying he didn’t want to pre-judge “any specific piece of legislation without actually seeing exactly what it’s doing,” before adding: “It’s not my desire to go back, to go move the needle any further.”

Joe Biden vs. Herschel Walker? They’re not running for governor, but they are top of mind for many in Georgia.

For Democrats, it’s GOP Senate nominee Herschel Walker, who has become a symbol of what his critics describe as Republican hypocrisy on issues like abortion, support for law enforcement and business acumen.

On the Republican side, President Joe Biden is the go-to boogeyman for most economic issues, with GOP candidates and their surrogates relentlessly trying to tie Democratic nominees to the President and the soaring inflation that’s occurred during his time in office.

Read more takeaways here.

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