Credit: John Bazemore | Associated Press — Stephen Fowler | GPB News
Trump, Harris Rallies Showcase Battle For Georgia's Votes — And Political Future
As the clock ticks closer to Election Day, Democrats and Republicans held dueling get-out-the-vote rallies in Georgia as each campaign tries in earnest to squeeze enough support from key constituencies to win the emerging battleground state.
In the once-conservative metro Atlanta suburbs, vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris joined Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams to electrify the diverse electorate that has made Gwinnett County and the 7th Congressional District the most likely to flip in the country.
Meanwhile, President Trump descended upon the heart of the 14th Congressional District in Rome, where the reliably red region has lagged behind the record-setting early voting turnout that has swept the state and will be a needed firewall to offset suburban gains that polling suggests Democrat Joe Biden has made in Georgia.
Harris, making her second trip in eight days, told a crowd at the Gwinnett Infinite Energy Center that Georgia would be the state that decides who wins the White House.
"And so I am back in Georgia to thank you for all you've been doing these years, in these months, in these weeks and these days," she said. "Look at the kind of turnout we've already seen in terms of early voting."
Indeed, more than 3.9 million of Georgia's 7.6 million registered voters returned an absentee ballot or braved lines during the three-week in-person early voting period, nearly eclipsing the total number of ballots cast in the 2016 presidential race.
Data from the state's absentee file suggests Democrats have an advantage in the early totals, so the pair of rallies Sunday — and a final push from former president Barack Obama with Georgia's two leading Democratic U.S. Senate candidates Monday — are the opposing camps' attempts to emerge victorious in persuading more Election Day voters to participate.
In Rome, thousands waited hours to line the runway of the Richard B. Russell Airport to hear President Trump speak amidst a last-minute blitz of massive outdoor rallies aimed at holding on to states like Georgia that were more decisively in his favor during the 2016 campaign.
"Can you believe it? Two days from now, we're going to win this state again and we're going to win four more great years in the White House," Trump said kicking off his speech. "Next year will be the greatest economic year in the history of our country, and it's heading that way under my leadership. Our economy is now growing at the fastest rate ever recorded."
Early in the afternoon, Tracy Morris' front yard was full of cars that friends and strangers parked before lining up to wait for the rally. She lives across from the airport, and was thrilled by the "chaos" of watching throngs of fellow Trump supporters stream down her street.
"We had a couple of ladies park here in our yard, they drove for three hours ... some of them more than that," she said, gesturing to a homemade sign noting a $20 charge to leave their cars, money she said will help with Christmas presents for her children and grandchildren. "The excitement is just contagious in the crowd, I don't mind at all."
But Democrats said that the only contagion Republicans should be concerned about is the spread of the coronavirus that is still ongoing in northwest Georgia.
“Donald Trump is coming to our town, to our community, to distract Georgians from his failed policies to address this public health problem," said Ben Amis, chairman of the Floyd County Democratic Party, in a virtual news conference. "Over 360,000 Georgians have been infected by COVID-19, and nearly 8,000 have died during this pandemic, and he has no plan. He is here to distract from the fact that there is nothing he is going to do, nothing he has done to help our community, to help our state, to help our country battle this public health crisis."
Gov. Brian Kemp is quarantining after being exposed to someone who tested positive for the virus, as Rep. Drew Ferguson announced his positive test result following a pair of rallies he attended with the governor.
In ways both figurative and literal, Georgia embodies the closing message of the two campaigns — with Biden trekking to rural Warm Springs to pitch himself as a unifier-in-chief who can navigate through the pandemic and accompanying economic crisis that has emerged.
"I'm running as a proud Democrat, but I will govern as an American president," he said. "I work with Democrats and Republicans. I work as hard for those who don't support me as for those who do. That's the job of a president."