By Greg Bluestein, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
(CNT) City News And Talk #atlanta-ga
‘Georgia is pivotal’
Joe Biden will visit Georgia on Tuesday for the first time since clinching the party’s presidential nomination, raising hopes among Democrats that they could be on the verge of carrying the state for the first time in nearly 30 years.
Biden will first deliver remarks in Warm Springs, the tiny Georgia town that was once the home of President Franklin Roosevelt’s private retreat. A few hours later, the Democrat will urge Georgians to vote early at a drive-in rally in Atlanta.
Republicans have won the state in every White House contest since 1996, but President Donald Trump can’t afford to take Georgia for granted in this cycle. He’s been advertising here since June and has veered from other competitive battlegrounds to visit Georgia three times in recent months.
For much of the campaign, Biden been laser-focused to recapture traditionally Democratic territory in the upper Midwest that Trump won in 2016.
But buoyed by solid polling numbers, he’s expanding the map to try to run up his Electoral College score in states like Arizona, North Carolina and now Georgia. About 3 million Georgians have already cast their ballots, and the surging turnout has helped make the state more unpredictable.
The visit also is designed to help down-ballot candidates – including Senate contenders Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, both competing for a pair of Republican-held seats that could determine control of the chamber.
“The chance to flip two Senate seats in Georgia is not an opportunity,” Ossoff told a crowd of mostly students in Athens on Monday. “It’s an obligation.”
‘Back on the map’
The race couldn’t be much closer. An Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll showed Trump and Biden deadlocked, both hovering around 47% of the vote. Ossoff is in a statistical tie with U.S. Sen. David Perdue. The poll is no outlier; most other recent surveys pegged both contests as tossups.
Republicans welcomed Biden’s strategic shift. Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said this week he’s “very, very confident” of the president’s standing in Georgia and invited Biden to “expend his limited campaign travel on states he’s not gonna win in 2020.”
Gov. Brian Kemp and other top state Republicans, meanwhile, are set to headline a pro-Trump rally in nearby Manchester hours before Biden arrives. The “MAGA Meet-Up” will also feature U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson and Georgia GOP chair David Shafer.
For Georgia Democrats, the visit is more than a pitstop on a chaotic campaign trail. It’s a sign that Biden’s campaign is making a concerted, concrete push to flip the state. And it comes days after his running-mate, Kamala Harris, toured Atlanta and rallied voters.
State Democrats have a history of feeling scorned in White House races. Democratic presidential candidates have long viewed Georgia as little more than a place to raise heaps of cash to spend in more competitive territories.
That started to change in 2016, when Trump carried Georgia by 5 percentage points but Democrats carved a blue streak across much of the once-Republican suburbs. Stacey Abrams’ bid for governor two years ago accelerated that trend, as she captured a swathe of territory once firmly in GOP hands.
As both parties geared up for the 2020 campaign, Abrams penned a memo warning it would be “strategic malpractice” to sidestep the state again, as Hillary Clinton had done in 2016. She and other Democrats celebrated the news of Biden’s visit a week before the election.
“Kamala Harris on Friday, Jill Biden twice in two weeks and now Biden is visiting Tuesday,” said state Rep. Calvin Smyre, the longest-serving member of the Legislature and a top Biden backer in Georgia. “Georgia is pivotal and back on the political map.”