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Dueling visits: Biden and Trump are both set to campaign in Georgia on Saturday

Greg Bluestein, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in Political News

ATLANTA — Former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden are both set to campaign in Georgia on Saturday with dueling visits that underscore the intense competition to capture one of the nation’s premier battleground states in November.

The event will be Trump’s first appearance in Georgia since he surrendered to authorities at the Fulton County Jail in August on charges he helped orchestrate a conspiracy to overturn his 2020 defeat.

Trump’s campaign hasn’t yet formally announced the trip, but several officials with knowledge of the former president’s schedule say an event is expected to be held in Rome. Biden, meanwhile, said last week that he will hold a Saturday rally in metro Atlanta.

The tandem visits come as both campaigns step up their efforts to win Georgia, which Democrats captured in 2020 for the first time in nearly three decades. The state will hold its presidential primary on March 12, and polls show Biden and Trump are both overwhelming favorites.

Republicans consider Georgia a must win to retake the White House four years after Trump lost the state. During his presidency, Georgia went from a reliably Republican state to a political battleground.

A ribbon of metro Atlanta’s suburbs flipped to Democrats during his presidency, and his obsession with his own defeat factored into Republican losses in dual U.S. Senate races in 2021 that cost the GOP control of the chamber.

Trump’s push to oust Gov. Brian Kemp and other Republicans he accused of disloyalty backfired spectacularly in 2022, and his handpicked candidate for the U.S. Senate, former football star Herschel Walker, was the lone statewide GOP candidate to go down in defeat.

And his efforts to subvert Biden’s victory, including his demand that Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger “find” enough votes to overcome his deficit, are at the center of charges against Trump in the ongoing election-interference trial in Fulton County.

Trump’s legal struggles helped revive his flagging campaign, galvanizing loyalists who agreed with his framing of the charges in Atlanta and three other jurisdictions as political persecution.

 

He leads Biden in head-to-head polls in Georgia and other key battleground states. And he’s all but ignored former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, who has lost a string of GOP nominating contests to Trump and hasn’t committed to staying in the race through Georgia’s March 12 vote.

In Georgia, the home of some of Trump’s most devastating political setbacks, an increasing number of GOP elected officials, donors and activists are siding with his campaign. Many rallied behind him in June, when Trump headlined the Georgia GOP convention in Columbus.

And even top Republicans who have clashed with Trump, including Kemp and Insurance Commissioner John King, say they’ll back the former president if he’s the party’s nominee.

The dueling visits come amid intense focus on immigration and public safety after the killing of 22-year-old nursing student Laken Riley, who authorities say was slain in February after she went out for a run on the campus of the University of Georgia.

Police have charged a 26-year-old Venezuelan migrant who they say unlawfully crossed the U.S. border in 2022 in Riley’s death. Both Biden and Trump traveled to Texas last week to highlight plans to deter illegal immigration, and Trump invoked Riley’s killing to reinforce his pledge to seal the U.S. border.

U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, who heads the Democratic Party of Georgia, said the intense campaign focus on the state is just the prelude to a busy 2024 season.

“We’re not a red state. We’re not a blue state. Georgia is periwinkle. We are a true battleground state, and we know that we have to work and fight for every vote,” Williams said in an interview. “And Georgia Democrats are working in every county so that no one is left out.”


©2024 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Visit at ajc.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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