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Georgia governor's race is neck and neck as Democrat Abrams tries to make history: NBC News/Marist poll

Key Points
  • The closely watched gubernatorial race between Republican Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams is close heading into the contest's final stretch. 
  • Abrams, the former state House minority leader, is trying to become the first black woman governor in the U.S., and a victory could have major implications for health care in the state. 
  • Kemp has tied himself to President Donald Trump, who tweeted his support for the Georgia secretary of state on Wednesday. 
Georgia gubernatorial candidates (L-R) Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp shake hands before a debate that also included Libertarian Ted Metz at Georgia Public Broadcasting in Midtown October 23, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by John Bazemore-Pool/Getty Images)
John Bazemore | Pool  | Getty Images

The closely watched Georgia gubernatorial race appears deadlocked fewer than two weeks before voters cast their ballots, according to a new poll released Wednesday.

Republican Secretary of State Brian Kemp holds a 2 percentage point edge over Democratic former state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams among likely voters — within the NBC News/Marist poll's 4.8 percentage point margin of error. He garners support from 49 percent of likely voters in a two-way contest, versus 47 percent for Abrams, the poll found. Among a larger poll of registered voters, a head to head race is tied at 47 percent of support.

When Libertarian Ted Metz is included, Kemp's lead among likely voters drops to 1 percentage point — 46 percent to 45 percent. Metz gets 4 percent of support, according to the survey. If no candidate reaches the 50 percent threshold, the top two candidates will compete in a runoff in early December.

Abrams, 44, has an eye on history. If she wins, she would become the first black woman governor in the country and the first Democratic head of her state in 15 years. Abrams could also reshape the state through policies such as her support for expansion of Medicaid, the federal and state insurance program for low-income people that Georgia has not expanded under the Affordable Care Act.

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Kemp, 55, has supported conservative policies and embraced President Donald Trump, particularly on immigration. He favors rolling back regulations and reforming the tax system, while he argues against Medicaid expansion. Most notably, he has faced accusations of using his current position as the state's top election official to suppress voters and help him win the governor's office — a charge Kemp has denied.

Abrams overwhelmingly leads among black voters, while she has smaller advantages among college graduates and women. Kemp has en edge among men and non-college graduates.

On Wednesday, Trump tweeted in support of Kemp, claiming Abrams "will destroy the State." The Democrat responded by saying "someone watched Kemp lose last night's debate" referring to Trump and directing her Twitter followers to volunteer for her campaign.

Trump's approval remains slightly above water in a state he carried by about 5 percentage points in 2016. Forty-nine percent of likely Georgia voters approve of the job he is doing, while 45 percent disapprove, according to the poll. Almost equal numbers — 38 percent to 36 percent — strongly approve and disapprove, respectively.

The president's approval rating closely reflected voters' preferences for control of Congress. Forty-eight percent of likely voters said they wanted a legislative branch controlled by the GOP, while 45 percent responded that they prefer a Democratic majority in Congress.

But when voters are asked which party's candidate they would choose in their districts, Republicans have a more narrow 1 percentage point edge in the battle for Congress.

The fight over Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh's confirmation appears not to give either major party a boost. Thirty-nine percent say they are more likely to back a candidate who supported Kavanaugh, while 36 percent responded that they are less likely.

The Senate confirmed the justice earlier this month as he faced sexual misconduct accusations, which Kavanaugh vehemently denied.

The NBC News/Marist poll was conducted October 14-18, 2018. The margin of error among likely voters is +/- 4.8 percentage points.