An Example of Poor Messaging

Sometimes politicians definitely say the wrong thing.

“Stacey Abrams” by Gage Skidmore. Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Via the AJC: ‘Bless her heart.’ Kemp ad slams Abrams for ‘worst state in the country to live’ remark

Almost as soon as Stacey Abrams called Georgia the “worst state in the country to live,” the Democrat’s campaign expected the remark to be the center of new GOP attacks. Gov. Brian Kemp’s first TV ad of the general election cycle does exactly that.

“Bless her heart. Georgia leads the nation because Brian Kemp is the governor,” said the narrator of the ad, which plays Abrams’ remarks multiple times. It closes with a declaration that “Brian Kemp’s kept Georgia the best place to live.”


“I am tired of hearing about being the best state in the country to do business when we are the worst state in the country to live,” said the Democrat, who was showered with extended applause from a crowd of hundreds.

Abrams immediately tried to “contextualize” her remarks by pointing to declining wages and the state’s high maternal mortality rates. Days later, she called her comments “inelegant” but her sentiment true.

Objectively, that was a dumb thing for Abrams to say and a strategically smart pick-up for Kemp’s commercial. People, as a general matter, don’t want their governor to say that their state is “the worst state in the country to live in.” This is made all the worse in a deeply southern state wherein the fact that Abrams “ain’t from there” doesn’t help. She was born in Wisconsin, although she moved to Atlanta as a child. To many in deeply traditional parts of the south, being “from” there can be a huge deal and you might not be “from” there unless at least your grandparents were too (I exaggerate, but not much).

I wouldn’t make too big of a deal over this, but it was definitely an own-goal on Abrams’ part.

FILED UNDER: 2022 Election, US Politics, , , ,
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. CSK says:

    I was startled, to put it mildly, when Abrams said this. The obvious response is: “Then why are you living here? Why would you want to be governor of the worst place to live?”

    In the open forum today I mentioned Debbie Stabenow’s remark about not caring about gas prices because, as the driver of an electric, she breezes right past gas stations.

    These kind of comments don’t endear you to the electorate.

  2. Kathy says:

    I wouldn’t make too big of a deal over this

    I wouldn’t, either. But then, unlike the median GQP electorate, I can take nuance and context into account. Remember “God damn America”? Or, far less salient, Johnson asking in 2016 “What is Aleppo”?

    This may be the soundbite that loses Abrams the election.

  3. Michael Reynolds says:

    It’s simply inaccurate. Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, South Carolina, at least four states just in the region are worse.

  4. Pylon says:

    Why would you want to be governor of a bad place to live? To make it better of course. I don’t think this is that bad.

    Hell, Trump ran on a (false) vision of America being a cesspool that only he could repair. Remember his opening speeches?

  5. Dave Schuler says:

    Was it “bad messaging” or was it a “Kinsley gaffe”?

  6. DK says:

    I don’t know. Trump running on America sucks and “Wages are too high” and “Women, you gotta treat em like s—t” and “How stupid are the people of Iowa?” didn’t seem to hurt him much.

    Of course, that’s partially because modern Democratic campaigns aren’t smart enough to blanket the airwaves with these kinds of quotes (a la Bill Clinton burying Papa Bush with “Read my lips, no new taxes”). Because, you know, modern Democrats and we go high or whatever weaksauce loser bs messaging we’re doing these days.

  7. Jay L Gischer says:

    Frankly, I think Abrams should not have apologized in any way, but pivoted to why and how she was going to make Georgia better as governor. If there’s any messaging error, that’s it. Do Not Blink. This is a meta message and its far more important than the actual words.

    She could probably add, “I love Georgia, but we could do better. A lot better.” Stuff like that.

    When Scott McNealy was CEO of Sun Microsystems, he would often make controversial statements, stuff that was edgy. The point was to drive attention, and he was good at it. I mean, it didn’t exactly save Sun, but probably nothing could do that. Unix workstations were killed by a combination of factors.

  8. CSK says:

    That’s a good point, but you have to keep in mind that the MAGAs see Trump as one of them, as their savior, as a real American patriot, whereas Abrams, like all Democrats, is a Communist elitist.

  9. gVOR08 says:

    It was dumb of a politician to say it. But it’s true. Maybe not absolutely the worst, but not good.

    If a GOP says something stupid, like Pat Fallon (R-TX) saying cell phones caused Uvalde, FOX ignores or rationalizes it and the MSM mention it for a day or two and drop it. After all, a GOP saying something stupid is pretty much dog bites man. But if a Dem says something embarrassing, FOX will be all over it and the supposedly liberal MSM will bring it up every time they mention the Dem. Like Hillary and deplorables. In context a true statement.

  10. wr says:

    @CSK: “That’s a good point, but you have to keep in mind that the MAGAs see Trump as one of them, as their savior, as a real American patriot, whereas Abrams, like all Democrats, is a Communist elitist.”

    If Stacy Abrams is counting on MAGA votes she’s got bigger problems than this quote.

  11. CSK says:

    Not at all. The response mechanism is different, that’s all. Trump’s fans like him precisely because he’s a pugnacious know-nothing churl. Abrams supporters expect better of her.

  12. DK says:


    …the MAGAs see Trump as one of them, as their savior, as a real American patriot, whereas Abrams, like all Democrats, is a Communist elitist.

    Ah yes, true true. How could I forget Rules 1 and 1a of 21st Century partisan American politics: “Only Democrats have responsibilities,” and “It’s okay when Republicans do it.”

    Thanks for reeling me back in, whew.

  13. CSK says:

    You’re welcome. Or, as a True MAGA would write, “Your welcome.” 🙂

  14. SC_Birdflyte says:

    @Pylon: But of course, there are different standards for Democrats and Republicans. Republican outrage is always excused.