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Biden and Trump take to Georgia for dueling rallies

ATLANTA — President Biden and former president Donald Trump will campaign 70 miles from each other Saturday evening, seeking to woo supporters in this crucial state in the opening salvos of the general election rematch.

The dueling appearances underscore the key role that Georgia, which holds its primary Tuesday, will play in November, after Biden defeated Trump in the state by fewer than 12,000 votes in the 2020 election. Trump decidedly won the state in 2016, beating Hillary Clinton by five percentage points.

Biden will rally voters in Atlanta, while Trump will hold his event in Rome, a city in northwest Georgia that is part of Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s (R-Ga.) district. The visits come two days after Biden delivered a fiery State of the Union address, during which he assailed Trump, though not directly by name, for threatening individual rights, freedom and democracy.

At Biden’s event, he will receive the joint endorsement of three political action committees — AAPI Victory Fund, The Collective PAC, and Latino Victory Fund — and a commitment from the groups to spend $30 million to mobilize Black, Latino, and Asian American and Pacific Islander voters.

Because voters of color made up such a large portion of Biden’s vote share in 2020 — particularly in key swing states — Democrats’ ability to motivate and mobilize these coalitions could be determinative in November, said Shekar Narasimhan, chairman of the AAPI Victory Fund.

“This is the ballgame for Democrats,” he said. “Even in states where there’s a predominantly white population, the margins are so thin that, for example, getting the Hmong vote in Wisconsin may be critical to winning the election.”

After reviewing data from recent elections and demographic statistics, the groups have decided to focus their combined efforts on three key states: Arizona, Georgia and Michigan.

One of the major obstacles the groups hope to overcome is a sense that another Biden-versus-Trump presidential race is a sign of stagnancy in the country.

“We really need to tell our communities that a lot has changed over the last four years,” Narasimhan said. “And in that change, there is opportunity.”

While Biden focuses his pitch Saturday on appealing to communities of color, Trump is expected to attack Biden on his immigration policy, more than a week after both men traveled to different parts of the southern border to make their pitch on border security.

The murder of Georgia nursing student Laken Riley, allegedly by a Venezuelan migrant who entered the country illegally in 2022, has rallied Republicans, who have cited her death to criticize the historic number of apprehensions since Biden took office in 2021 and to portray migrants as dangerous. Before Biden’s State of the Union address, Greene handed Biden a pin with Riley’s name.

As Greene heckled Biden during the speech to “say her name,” Biden held up the pin and said Riley had been “killed by an illegal” but then asked: “how many of thousands of people are being killed by legals?” (Experts say there’s little evidence that undocumented immigrants commit more crime, and federal data shows most of those arrested at the border do not have criminal convictions.)

During the speech, Biden offered his condolences to Riley’s family and called on Congress to pass a bipartisan border security bill that died in the Senate, amid widespread GOP opposition led by Trump.

“We relish another opportunity for President Trump to go head-to-head with Joe Biden and contrast his strong record of securing the border and keeping Americans safe versus Biden’s open border policies that led to the tragic death of Georgia’s very own Laken Riley,” Trump campaign spokesperson Karoline Leavitt said in a statement. “Today, Georgia will see the difference between a strong, focused and enthusiastic leader versus a weak, incompetent and crooked career politician.”

Biden’s trip to Georgia comes as part of his post-State of the Union tour of the battleground states, which began Friday in Pennsylvania. Next week, he will travel to New Hampshire, Wisconsin and Michigan.

“Our freedoms really are on the ballot this November,” Biden said during a rally in the suburbs of Philadelphia. “Donald Trump and the MAGA Republicans are trying to take away our freedoms. That’s not an exaggeration. We will not let him.”

Biden’s campaign also announced that it was launching a $30 million advertising campaign as part of the pivot to the general election. In the first ad, which was released Saturday, the president directly confronts concerns about his age. The ad features Biden speaking into the camera as he contrasts his record with Trump.

“Look, I’m not a young guy,” Biden says at the start of the 60-second advertisement. “That’s no secret, but here’s the deal: I understand how to get things done for the American people.”

Trump’s campaign riffed on the age question by releasing an ad titled “Not a Young Guy,” that featured videos of Biden stumbling or falling down.

A Fox News poll conducted in January found that in a matchup between Biden and Trump, 51 percent of registered voters in Georgia said they would vote for Trump, while 43 percent said they would vote for Biden.

Trump’s return to the Peach State comes as he faces 13 state charges in connection with his efforts to try to overturn Biden’s 2020 victory in Georgia. Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis (D) launched an investigation more than three years ago after audio leaked of a call that Trump made in January 2021 to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R), in which Trump said he wanted to “find” the votes to reverse his 2020 loss.

Trump was charged in August, alongside several of his allies, and he was booked at the Fulton County jail. The sheriff’s office released a mug shot of Trump that day, an iconic image embraced by his campaign, supporters and fundraisers as the former president seeks to portray himself as a victim of a weaponized justice system.

It’s not clear, however, when the Georgia election interference case will go to trial. Willis is under scrutiny for having a romantic relationship with the case’s lead prosecutor, Nathan Wade. A judge is considering whether the relationship created a conflict of interest or the appearance of one and whether Willis and her office should be removed from the case. He is expected to make a decision by Friday.

LeVine reported from Rome, Ga. Toluse Olorunnipa in Atlanta contributed to this report.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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