Donald Trump’s 2024 White House bid reverberates in Georgia

The Peach State was at the center of 2020′s most volatile political controversy
Published: Nov. 15, 2022 at 9:25 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 16, 2022 at 10:27 AM EST
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - Donald Trump’s entry into the 2024 presidential race could return Georgia to the national political spotlight it was under two years ago, when the nation’s 45th president attempted to overturn the state’s election results.

Trump announced his candidacy Tuesday night from his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida.

“If he wins the GOP nomination, I’d be surprised if he didn’t make Georgia more competitive for Democrats,” said Dr. Ben Taylor, political scientist at Kennesaw State University. “In fact, any generic Republican would make the state a safer place for the GOP than Trump.”

Taylor pointed out Trump-backed state Sen. Burt Jones, who won last week’s lieutenant governor’s race, did so with the smallest margin of victory of any Republican running for a statewide constitutional office this year. Jones also got the fewest votes of any GOP statewide candidate in Georgia’s 2022 midterms.

“Trump’s chances to win [in 2024] depends on two things,” said GOP strategist Leo Smith. “First, can he survive a fight with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who at this point is a legitimate political force after the 2020 midterms? Second, does the Republican establishment have the courage to assign its 2020 midterm losses and underperformance to Trump and other election-denier candidates?”

Smith draws contrasts to differences in leadership styles between Trump and Gov. Brian Kemp, who not only handily won re-election last week in the nation’s most watched governor’s race, but whose campaign organization also helped another complete GOP sweep of every statewide constitutional office.

“The state Republican Party’s leadership is rudderless,” Smith said. “Trump did not have an impact on our state because Gov. Kemp didn’t allow it. Trump is like an enabler in a violent domestic partnership. If we insert Trump back into our state, the hostility will certainly return.”

“The greatest thing for Democrats is for Trump to announce he’s running for president now so we can include this in Georgia’s Dec. 6 Senate runoff,” said Democratic strategist Dr. Rashad Richey. “Trump is very problematic in Georgia because it was under his watch that two sitting GOP U.S. senators lost their seats to Democrats, in a state that’s still mostly conservative.”

Former U.S. senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue both lost their re-election bids to Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff, respectively.

President Joe Biden has given indications he plans to run for re-election, possibly setting a Biden-Trump rematch in two years.

“Democrats need to figure how to stop playing defense and play offense,” Richey said. “The No. 1 reason Democrats chose Biden in 2020 was because he was most electable against Trump. That sentiment may still exist, but Biden was a defensive choice. We need to stop playing not to lose and start playing to win.”

Georgia was rocked by numerous political developments on Tuesday. Warnock’s re-election campaign was joined by other Democrats in filing a lawsuit in Fulton County Superior Court over the lack of Saturday voting in the upcoming, Dec. 6 runoff.

Later on Tuesday, Judge Robert McBurney in that same court blocked portions of Georgia’s six-week ban on abortion, ruling it violated the U.S. Constitution and U.S. Supreme Court precedent when it was enacted.

Now, Trump has returned to the national political spotlight, with the former president on Tuesday night touting Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker’s bid to unseat Warnock in the Dec. 6 runoff.

Some Republicans, according to the Associated Press, are concerned Trump’s announcement will be a distraction from Georgia’s U.S. Senate runoff between Warnock and Walker.

“What’s really important for anybody who wants to be a 2024 candidate is to help us right now in 2022 to finish the cycle by winning the state of Georgia,” said Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., according to the AP.

“We obviously had higher expectation in the Senate, which didn’t pan out. I think there are a lot of different things that contribute to that,” Thune added. “But I do think that, you know, folks who were unduly focused on the 2020 election, that’s not a winning strategy with independent voices.”

After the 2020 election, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger - who was also re-elected to a second term last week - repeatedly rebuffed Trump’s efforts to overturn the state’s presidential election results, and refuted claims of widespread voter fraud in Georgia. Joe Biden became the first Democratic White House candidate to carry Georgia since Bill Clinton in 1992, winning the Peach State by .23%.

Georgia was also the only Deep South state to vote Democratic in 2020.

Earlier this year, Raffensperger testified before the Democrat-organized House Select Committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol that Trump’s claims of 2020 election fraud “were false.”

Raffensperger told the committee the Nov. 6, 2020, election went “remarkably smooth. “I felt we had a successful election,” he said.

The committee also focused on a phone call that Raffensperger received on Jan. 2 from Trump, in which he asked Georgia’s top elections official “to find 11,780 votes” in order to overturn Georgia’s results.

Trump’s presidency was marked by historic firsts: first president in the 21st century to lose a re-election bid; first Republican president to lose re-election since George H.W. Bush in 1992; and first president to be impeached twice and acquitted twice. Now, he is seeking to become the first ex-president since Grover Cleveland to leave the White House after one term (1885-1889) and run successfully for a second term, four years later (1893-1897).