Joe Biden picks up support from prominent Georgia Democrat

Former Vice President Joe Biden. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris, File)

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Former Vice President Joe Biden. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris, File)

Former Vice President Joe Biden nabbed the endorsement Thursday of ex-U.S. Sen. Max Cleland, who called the Democrat an experienced leader who "appeals to the best instincts of our country."

The endorsement makes Cleland the most prominent Democrat in Georgia to back Biden in the 2020 race for the White House. He’s also the highest-profile Democrat in the state to choose sides in the crowded race.

In an interview hours after Biden entered the race for president, Cleland said “the moment in American history demands someone with a working class background, someone who understands the dilemmas of working families.”

“Look at the man’s leadership,” said Cleland, who served in the U.S. Senate with him from 1997 to 2003. “This moment also demands someone who knows about leadership, and no one in the history of the United States entered the race with more experience in politics as Joe Biden. That’s what we need.”

Cleland’s support for Biden, a longtime U.S. senator and two-term vice president, makes him an outlier among Georgia Democrats, who have largely taken a wait-and-see approach as the race against President Donald Trump evolves.

With a growing field of presidential candidates, uneasiness about the coronation of Hillary Clinton in 2016 and the possibility that Stacey Abrams could enter the contest, Georgia Democratic leaders and rank-and-file party members are mostly staying neutral.

A recent Atlanta Journal-Constitution survey found that hardly any state elected officials have picked sides in the 2020 race, and Georgia's top tier of Democratic figures is holding back. The same goes with the grassroots leaders that help shape the party's direction from the local level.

The AJC reached out to more than 60 Democratic leaders at the county level and found the broad majority are in wait-and-see mode. Only one of the dozens of county chairmen who responded to the AJC's requests had decided on a candidate.

Cleland, also a former Georgia secretary of state, predicts Biden’s entrance could change the dynamic.

“It’s been a wonderful experience to get to know Joe,” said Cleland, “and it will definitely put a gloss on the Democratic field and attract people who have heretofore not been involved.”

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