Come Sunday night, amid a flurry of events to close out the campaign, President Donald Trump will find himself in Rome, Georgia as he plays defense to try and keep from losing a state that hasn’t gone for a Democrat in the presidential race since 1992.
And that Trump has to spend crucial final minutes of the campaign in what was once seen as reliably red Georgia wasn’t lost on some Republicans elsewhere in the state like Larry Odum, the chairman of the Appling County Republicans who told The Daily Beast “it does concern me that he is having to come back this late.”
“I would think that our state would be stronger for Republicans than that,” said Odum, who’s still confident the state won’t turn blue. “But there's a lot of money being shipped into Georgia trying to sway voters the other way.”
Making matters even more fluid in the state is the presence of former President Barack Obama on the eve of the election. That Obama will be spending time Monday campaigning in Georgia is just another sign that Democrats are trying to make a major play in the southern state that hasn’t gone blue in a presidential race since Bill Clinton won it in 1992.
Obama’s visit is a morale booster for Democrats and energizes the base at a crucial time in the state, Fulton County Democratic chair LeWanna Heard Tucker said.
“And the fact that Trump and Pence and everybody else are making these stops in Georgia tells us that they're scared,” Tucker said. “They are throwing everything that they have at this right now and that's great. We're going to do our part to make sure we turn out every vote and that every vote that has been cast is counted.”
Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. Kamala Harris will also be appearing in Georgia on Sunday for what the Biden campaign said will be “a voter mobilization event in Gwinnett County.”
Polls have shown a tight race in the state's major races, including the contests for its two U.S. Senate seats currently in GOP control. And in the presidential contest, a Monmouth poll released Wednesday showed Biden leading among registered voters in Georgia by five points and with a more narrow lead in a pair of different turnout models.
In Floyd County, Georgia where Trump will rally Sunday local GOP chairman Luke Martin noted that both Republicans and Democrats “wouldn't spend the money to come out here... if they didn't think Georgia was in play.”
“It shows that it's at least possible, so it is what it is,” Martin said. If Democrats succeeded in winning the state’s 16 electoral votes that could amount to a victory that could crater Trump’s re-election chances.
But Martin said he had expected a visit from the president to their area. And when it came to Republican Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is expected to officially win a U.S. House seat this election even after her campaign has been dominated by her ties to the baseless QAnon conspiracy, Martin said she “has put in a lot of work to get the president here.”
“I think it's a reflection of the polls, everybody sees what they are, that it's tight here, and the president needs to win here," Martin said. “So yeah, not worried. We're just happy he's here.”
Georgia has become especially heated at this point in the cycle with not only the presidential race, but two key Senate seats up for grabs in the long GOP held southern state. The Senate races have grown especially tight, with incumbent Republican Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) trying to fend off a determined effort from Democrat Jon Ossoff who lost a special election for a congressional seat back in 2017.
“GEORGIA IS *THE* BATTLEGROUND STATE,” Ossoff tweeted following the announcement of Obama’s visit.
At the same time, Republicans in the state have shown clear divisions for the state’s other Senate seat. Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) was appointed to replace Johnny Isakson, instead of Trump congressional favorite Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA). But that’s created a situation where Collins and Loeffler are locked in a tight battle on the right in the open election where instead of running a primary, all the candidates of either party are running against one another. In that race Democrats have largely coalesced around Rev. Raphael Warnock. And the political drama between Loeffler and Collins could mean that Warnock is able to pull off a surprise and win the seat.
Both Senate races have the potential to go into a runoff, which occurs if no candidate gets a majority of the vote per Georgia law, which would be held on January 5, 2021. And given how things are trending nationally, that date could help decide which party controls the Senate.
During his appearance Monday Obama will be touting the candidacies of Ossoff and Warnock, according to the Saturday announcement of the former president’s travel from the Biden campaign. Biden himself was in the state a week out from election day, where he appeared in Warm Springs and Atlanta.
Trump last rallied in Georgia in mid-October during an appearance in Macon. The rally also led to Perdue being embroiled in controversy after repeatedly mispronouncing Harris’s first name while on stage, a misstep that Ossoff quickly jumped on. The Democrat has also taken Perdue to task on Twitter for skipping a final Senate debate, with the senator’s campaign citing Trump’s rally Sunday as the reason.
“Senator Perdue will not be participating in the WSB-TV debate but will instead join the 45th president, Donald J. Trump, for a huge Get-Out-The-Vote rally in Northwest Georgia,” Perdue’s communications director John Burk said in a statement.
Elsewhere in the state, while Carvel Lewis predicted a win for Trump in Georgia, he didn’t show the same confidence for Trump being able to win the election as a whole.
The Quitman County Republican leader who also serves as chair of the local county commission told The Daily Beast Trump’s visit is “trying to reinforce his base,” as he works to get them to the polls in Georgia.
“It would be great if he could spend that time visiting more cities in Michigan or Pennsylvania or Florida or North Carolina, some of the other places where I think it's going to be closer,” Lewis said of the time Trump was putting towards his Georgia rally Sunday.
The president’s visit Sunday night in Georgia comes amid a three day rush to close the campaign that is among 14 stops across Pennsylvania, Michigan, Iowa, and North Carolina, along with Wisconsin and Florida.
And Ken Carroll, a Georgia Republican Party state committee member, still maintained that Georgia would go red and “if the Democrats think Georgia's in play and they want to spend their resources here, then that's good for us.”
With that in mind, he made clear “that there may be other places (Trump’s) time might be better spent,” so close to election day, “because we’re going to deliver for the president.”
“I think it's an unfounded concern on the president's part, but I would much rather see him somewhere else because there are other states that are going to need him more than we are,” Carroll said.
-- With additional reporting from Sam Brodey