Playing offense, Biden on Tuesday made his first appearance in the state during the 2020 general election, telling a crowd at a drive-in car rally in Atlanta that if “we win Georgia, we win everything.”
In 1992, southerner Bill Clinton was the last Democrat to carry Georgia in a presidential election. Republican President George W. Bush won the state by double digits in the 2000 and 2004 elections. But thanks in part to changing demographics, Georgia tightened and President Trump captured the state’s 16 electoral votes by less than 6 points in the 2016 presidential election.
An Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll conducted by the University of Georgia and released on Monday indicates the race is all knotted up – with Biden at 47% support among likely Peach State voters and Trump at 46%. And another survey -- from New York Times/Siena College -- showed the two major party nominees deadlocked at 45%, with other polls released in recent days also pointing to a contest that’s virtually all tied up.
The polls also indicate both of the state’s Senate races (a regularly scheduled contest and a special election) are extremely competitive.
“There aren’t a lot of pundits who would have guessed four years ago that the Democratic candidate for president in 2020 would be campaigning in Georgia on the final week of the election," an energetic Biden told the crowd. "Or that we’d have such competitive Senate races in Georgia. But we do because something's happening here in Georgia and across the nation."
“I can’t tell you how important it is that we flip the United States Senate. There’s no state more consequential than Georgia in that fight. You’ve got two competitive races here,” Biden stressed.
And pointing to the two Democratic Senate candidates – Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock – Biden said “let’s give the people of Georgia two new senators who will fight for your interests, not for Donald Trump's interests.”
The event was far from a typical Biden campaign gathering.
The former vice president took to the stage to the song “Hey Ya” from the hip hop duo OutKast, who hailed from Atlanta. And performing earlier in the program were two well-known rappers, Common and Offset.
“Thank you Common and Offsett. I tell you what. I know that’s the real reason you came. The entertainment. I don’t blame you,” Biden said.
The event was held at an amphitheater on Atlanta’s southside. According to the Secret Service, 771 people passed through security to attend the rally. That makes the campaign event Biden’s largest since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
Nearly all of Biden’s events are small in scale, with those attending socially distancing and wearing masks. It’s a dramatic contrast to Trump, who’s holding large outdoor rallies at airports, with limited mask wearing and no social distancing, which is at odds with guidance from public health officials.
The Trump campaign took to Twitter to minimize the significance of Biden's Atlanta rally.
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms – who Biden considered as a running mate – spoke ahead of the former vice president. Biden praised the mayor, saying “she’s got a backbone like a ramrod and she has a moral compass that’s true north. I really admire her. You’ve done an incredible job mayor. You’re a power house of a leader.”
Biden arrived in Atlanta after giving a speech in Warm Springs, Ga., on healing and unifying the nation.
At the top of his speech in Atlanta, added his running mate's name to his traditional opening line.
“My name is Joe Biden. I’m Jill Biden’s husband and I’m Kamala’s running mate,” Biden said.
Biden made history in August in naming Sen. Kamala Harris of California as the first Black woman on a major party's national ticket.
Harris campaigned late last week in Atlanta, which has long been known as a center of African American culture, political power, higher education, and as a cradle of the Civil Rights movement.
President Trump and Vice President Pence have also made numerous stops in Georgia this year. Pence was in the state at the end of last month, to energize conservative evangelicals in suburban Atlanta and the president held a large rally in Macon a week and a half ago.
“I love Georgia,” the president proclaimed. And Trump predicted that “a giant red wave is coming from Atlanta to Augusta, from Savannah to Columbus, and from Marietta to right here in Macon, Georgia.”