The upset, observers say, was due partly to low voter turnout and to the presence of a third "spoiler" candidate. But she also appears to have suffered from the controversy surrounding her scuffle with a Capitol Hill cop that landed her in a grand jury trial in which she was ultimately acquitted. Redistricting, which shed some of McKinney's antagonistic white constituency, did not appear to help her.
"People are fed up with Cynthia McKinney," and "it crosses racial boundaries," said Jeff Dickerson, an African-American constituent of McKinney's and a panelist on the political TV talk show The Georgia Gang who predicted a tight runoff race. "I think that there's a quiet campaign among African-American voters" against her, he added.
Although McKinney is said to have a strong core constituency of African-Americans who rally around her, they did not show up in full force at Tuesday's polls. "Low voter turnout often means that incumbents find themselves in trouble," said Matt Towery, a Georgia Republican pollster. "Had this been a normal turnout race, she would have won," he said. Towery also speculated that McKinney suffered from general voter disenchantment with their elected officials for failing to address issues like the economy and global security." They're taking it out on everybody," he said.
What happens in the Aug. 8 runoff hinges on the extent to which each camp can reverse that apathy and energize its voter base. While McKinney is an adept grassroots organizer, analysts say, her vulnerability may also motivate her detractors.