The Hill's Campaign Report: Is Georgia reaching a tipping point?

Welcome to The Hill’s Campaign Report, your daily rundown on all the latest news in the 2020 presidential, Senate and House races. Did someone forward this to you? Click here to subscribe.

We’re Julia Manchester, Max Greenwood and Jonathan Easley. Here’s what we’re watching today on the campaign trail. 

 

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LEADING THE DAY:

 

Democrats’ hopes of capturing statewide office in Georgia may have been dashed in 2018, but this year the party appears on the cusp of a breakthrough. 

The state’s two Republican senators are facing increasingly competitive reelection bids, and President TrumpDonald John TrumpMark Kelly clinches Democratic Senate nod in Arizona Trump camp considering White House South Lawn for convention speech: reports Longtime Rep. Lacy Clay defeated in Missouri Democratic primary MORE’s poll numbers are suffering there as he scrambles to get a handle on the coronavirus pandemic and respond to ongoing civil unrest over racial injustice and police brutality.

Democrats, meanwhile, say that changing demographics in Georgia have made the state ripe for political change. Some 322,000 new voters joined the state’s rolls last year, including many young voters and people of color. And Georgia’s June 9 primaries saw record-setting Democratic turnout, drawing nearly twice as many voters as the 2018 gubernatorial nominating contest between Stacey Abrams and Stacey Evans. 

“Georgia is the linchpin, the most competitive state, the top battleground,” Jon Ossoff, who’s running to unseat Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), said in an interview with The Hill on Thursday.

“Georgia has seen some of the highest-profile, most competitive races of the past decade," he continued. "Each of those battles built mighty infrastructure, trained tens of thousands of volunteers, moved the needle, and now Georgia is the most competitive state in the country.”

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Ossoff, who first garnered national attention in 2017 during his unsuccessful bid for a suburban Atlanta House seat, last month beat out a crowded field of Democrats for the nomination to take on Perdue, a business executive and first-term senator. 

Perdue isn’t the only Georgia Republican defending a Senate seat; Sen. Kelly LoefflerKelly LoefflerLoeffler knocks WNBA players for wearing shirts backing Democratic challenger WNBA players wear 'Vote Warnock' shirts in support of Loeffler Democratic challenger Trump and Biden tied in Georgia: poll MORE (R-Ga.), who was appointed late last year by Gov. Brian Kemp (R) to fill the seat vacated by retired Sen. Johnny IsaksonJohnny IsaksonWNBA players wear 'Vote Warnock' shirts in support of Loeffler Democratic challenger Trump and Biden tied in Georgia: poll Biden campaign staffs up in Georgia MORE (R-Ga.), is facing several challengers in a special election to serve out the remainder of Isakson’s term. That includes the Rev. Raphael Warnock, who has the backing of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC), but also Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsLoeffler knocks WNBA players for wearing shirts backing Democratic challenger WNBA players wear 'Vote Warnock' shirts in support of Loeffler Democratic challenger Sunday shows preview: White House, Democratic leaders struggle for deal on coronavirus bill MORE (R-Ga.), a steadfast Trump ally who was the president’s pick to fill Isakson’s seat before Kemp chose Loeffler.

Both Senate races in Georgia currently lean in Republicans’ favor, according to election handicappers, but one election handicapper, The Cook Political Report, this week moved the state to “toss-up” status in the presidential race in a sign that Republicans running statewide in Georgia may be in for some tough fights ahead. At the same time, Trump’s sagging poll numbers in Georgia could act as a drag on Republicans down the ballot, Jay Williams, a longtime Georgia Republican strategist, said. 

“I think it’s probably a little more competitive simply because the president is making it more competitive,” Williams said. “Obviously he’s got some issues that are going to be hard for Republicans to shake.”

But Williams cautioned that Election Day is still four months away, and while things may be looking up for Democrats now, their standing in Georgia could change quickly, especially if Republicans are successful at tying their opponents to more liberal and progressive elements in the Democratic Party. 

“For the most part, the Georgia electorate is a little more right of center,” Williams said. “They’re not going to be OK with the kind of nonsense that’s going on with the left right now.”

– Max Greenwood

 

READ MORE:

Democrats hope for tidal moment in Georgia with two Senate seats in play by Max

 

FROM THE TRAIL:

 

Democratic leaders are hoping to use their party’s national convention in August to contrast their approach to the coronavirus with that of Trump...they’re just still trying to work out the details. Convention planners have told delegates not to attend the convention in person, and they’re trying to hash out how a mostly virtual event will work. But with Trump and Republicans intent on a large, in-person GOP convention in Jacksonville, Fla., Democrats see it as a chance to show how hard a line they’ve taken on the coronavirus pandemic. The Hill’s Amie Parnes reports.

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Former vice president and presumptive Democratic nominee Joe BidenJoe BidenMark Kelly clinches Democratic Senate nod in Arizona Hillicon Valley: NSA warns of new security threats | Teen accused of Twitter hack pleads not guilty | Experts warn of mail-in voting misinformation Biden offers well wishes to Lebanon after deadly explosion MORE tore into Trump’s handling of the coronavirus as the president prepared to visit Florida, the newest epicenter of the pandemic, on Friday. Polls show Trump trailing Biden in the Sunshine State, and Democrats there have blamed Trump and Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisTrump notes GOP governor when asked why he backs mail-in voting in Florida Five people who attended meeting with DeSantis in Florida test positive for coronavirus Journalist covering Trump trip to Florida tests positive for coronavirus MORE (R) for putting the state at risk by pushing for a swift reopening. Max reports.

Trump's scheduled campaign rally in New Hampshire this weekend will be postponed due to expected storms in the area, the White House announced Friday. White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters traveling with the president to Florida that the rally will be put on hold for a "week or two," Brett Samuels reports. Meanwhile, a new poll finds that two-thirds of voters disapprove of Trump’s handling of the coronavirus.

The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) on Thursday formally endorsed Biden in the presidential race and is expected to mobilize its resources across 40 states to support his run against Trump. The union, which represents more than 2 million workers, will spend $150 million on voter engagement efforts, with a specific focus on people of color who vote infrequently in battleground states. The Hill’s Zack Budryk reports.

 

FROM CONGRESS AND THE STATES: 

 

Senate Republicans say they are still feeling positive about their chances of holding their majority despite growing warning signs for the party. Jordain Carney reports.

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Multiple states are facing dire budget shortfalls due to the coronavirus pandemic, signaling that local governments could have a real problem holding elections while the disease lingers in the country. Marty Johnson reports.

 

MONEY WATCH:

 

Rep. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.) pulled in more than $1.5 million for his Senate bid in the second quarter of 2020, his campaign announced on Friday, marking his highest quarterly fundraising haul yet and the best second quarter for any New Mexico Senate candidate ever during an election year. 

 

PERSPECTIVES:

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Chris Lamar: 2020 is the last chance for fair maps”

Deborah Beck: “Protests and voting are the building blocks of change”

 

MARK YOUR CALENDARS:

 

July 11:

Louisiana primaries

 

July 14:

Alabama primary runoffs

Texas primary runoffs

Maine primaries

 

Aug. 4:

Arizona primaries

Kansas primaries

Michigan primaries

Missouri primaries

Washington primaries

 

Aug. 11:

Connecticut primaries

Minnesota primaries

Vermont primaries

Wisconsin primaries

Georgia primary runoffs

 

Aug. 18:

Alaska primaries

Florida primaries

Wyoming primaries

 

Aug. 17-20:

Democratic National Convention

 

Aug. 24-27:

Republican National Convention

 

Sept. 1:

Massachusetts primaries

 

Sept. 8:

New Hampshire primaries

Rhode Island primaries

 

Sept. 15:

Delaware primaries

 

Sept. 29:

First presidential debate

 

Oct. 7:

Vice presidential debate

 

Oct. 15:

Second presidential debate

 

Oct. 22:

Third presidential debate