Savannah, GA.—On the campaign trail in Georgia, the phrase sweat equity has acquired new meaning. Down below the gnat line, a month into autumn, organizers in this city swarm around a stage on a sweltering 90-degree Tuesday night. Stacey Abrams’s bus tour, wending its way through hundreds of miles of Georgia towns, has finally made it to Savannah State University, where a crowd of supporters sits and stands, packed in and drenched. The crowd is remarkably diverse, but it’s the crew of elderly black women in the front that draws the eye. For anyone sitting beside them, it’s hard to tell whether this is a rally or a revival—whether the tension building in the audience is plain old anticipation or something more spiritual.
When Abrams finally made it to the stage, the crowd erupted. She glistened, reflecting the shining, sweating brown faces seated nearest to the stage, and she extolled, praising the virtues of elbow grease in getting unlikely voters to the polls. And when it was time to bring her message home, she returned to the single policy that has defined the Georgia governor’s race—and the one that resonates most with the women at the front of the crowd. Her closing argument was all about Medicaid expansion, which Georgia hasn’t adopted, and what it would mean for the lives of people of color and the poor in the state.