Stacey Abrams’s defeat in the Georgia governor’s race was only a few weeks old when she arrived in New York in December to meet with campaign donors and political allies. At a reception in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, a supporter asked her what she would do next.
Ms. Abrams, attendees recalled, said she was undecided, except on one point: She was determined to seek high office again.
Since that meeting, Ms. Abrams’s next political moment has arrived with startling speed. She is slated to give the Democratic response to President Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday, a task of extraordinary prominence and an unheard-of distinction for a candidate who fell short of victory in the midterms.
But Ms. Abrams’s planned rebuttal to Mr. Trump is only one element of the role she is positioned to play in national politics: Democratic Party leaders are already imploring her to put her name back on the ballot, this time as a challenger to Senator David Perdue, a Georgia Republican who is loyally aligned with Mr. Trump. Democrats believe that by challenging Mr. Perdue in 2020, Ms. Abrams could help break the Republican Party’s near-monopoly on Southern power in the Senate, and perhaps help make Georgia competitive in the presidential race.
Ms. Abrams remains undecided about running for the Senate, according to multiple people who have spoken with her directly. Her longstanding aspiration has been to serve as Georgia’s governor, and she still believes that is the most consequential job she could seek. But her allies acknowledge that Ms. Abrams is listening to her party’s entreaties, and that she has grown more open to the idea of opposing Mr. Perdue.
The party’s establishment has lined up strongly behind the idea, with Senator Chuck Schumer, the minority leader, and multiple Democratic presidential candidates lobbying her to enter the race. Charles Myers, an investor and Democratic political donor who raised money for Ms. Abrams in 2018, said he and other contributors were eager to back her in a new campaign.
“I hope she runs,” Mr. Myers said, adding of the governor’s race: “That election was stolen from her.”
More than any other candidate of 2018, Ms. Abrams has come to sit at a nexus of important forces in Democratic politics: Her candidacy became a symbol to national Democrats, first of the power that women and African-Americans exercised in the midterms, and then of an electoral system the party views as badly broken. She became something of a political martyr with her narrow loss to Brian Kemp, a Republican who supervised the election as Georgia’s secretary of state, and whom Ms. Abrams and civil rights groups accused of seeking to suppress minority votes.
In her campaign, Ms. Abrams, 45, seemed at times to preview the balancing act Democrats may seek to execute in the presidential race, mixing a progressive message on issues like health care with a vision of bipartisan government and economic growth that attracted moderate suburban whites.
Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser to former President Barack Obama who is close with Ms. Abrams, called the loss a painful but not crippling one. “You can be hurt by the outcome of an election, but not defeated,” Ms. Jarrett said. “And she is far from defeated.”
DuBose Porter, a former Georgia Democratic Party chairman, said he believed Ms. Abrams was increasingly receptive to the idea of running for Senate, rather…