Brian Kemp saved his most prominent surrogate for last.
President Donald Trump is headlining a get-out-the-vote rally for the Republican gubernatorial nominee at the Middle Georgia Regional Airport on Sunday afternoon.
Trump’s trip comes as polls continue to show Kemp neck-and-neck against Democrat Stacey Abrams for the state’s top office, and he hopes Trump will motivate supporters in a part of the state that the president won by 5 points in 2016.
Here are live updates:
5:13 p.m. Trump wraps up a roughly hourlong speech by invoking his campaign slogan, as the crowd echoed him vowing to “make America great again.”
He did not make any mention of Kemp’s controversial decision on Sunday to launch an investigation into the Democratic Party. Without disclosing evidence, Kemp claimed the party attempted to hack the state’s voter registration system.
The party said the assertion was false and a desperate attempt to deflect attention from vulnerabilities in the state’s online voter registration website. Catch up here.
5:10 p.m. The president’s closing remarks were interrupted by chants of “USA” by cheering supporters.
“We’re standing up for Americans. We’re standing up for Georgians. And we’re proudly standing up for our National Anthem,” he said.
“I’m asking every citizen from every background and every race color and creed to reject Democratic politics and the policies of anger and division and to reclaim our proud and righteous destiny as Americans.”
A vote for Kemp, he said, was a vote for him.
“I need the people of Georgia to send a message to Cryin’ Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi and the legendary Maxine Waters to defy the Democrats by electing Brian Kemp.”
5 p.m. The president is mentioning a litany of topics - including an attack on both Oprah Winfrey and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren - but he’s returned to attacks centering on two themes: public safety and economic development.
He warned that Democratic opposition would hurl a “wrecking ball” into economic gains over the last two years, and said Abrams’ victory would trigger more crime.
“We were going in the wrong direction. But now when I have meetings with foreign leaders ... every one of them comes into the Oval Office and says before anything else, ‘I want to congratulate you on the incredible job you’ve done with the economy.’”
Abrams initially wanted to reverse a state income tax hike, but has since reversed her stance. And she’s cast her plan to eliminate cash bail and decriminalize some drug offenses as an extension of Gov. Nathan Deal’s legacy, which has diverted more non-violent offenders from costly prison cells.
4:49 p.m. Kemp thanked the president for having “Georgia on your mind” and the package of $1.6 trillion tax cuts he signed into law.
“Thanks to the leadership of Gov. Deal, taxes were cut. And with your help, I’m going to do it again next year,” he said. “We also appreciate you taking a chainsaw to government regulations.”
He pledged to back Trump up from the Gold Dome, saying that the president “needs some help from time to time.”
“We will help,” he said. “We’ll work hard with this president to continue to make America great again.”
Kemp said while his opponent, Abrams, drew former President Barack Obama and media icon Oprah Winfrey, he countered with some pretty big names of his own.
“We’ve got Trump, Pence, Vince Dooley and Herschel Walker to help us make a goal line stop.”
4:45 p.m. Before eliciting cheers of “Kemp, Kemp, Kemp,” Trump aimed another barb at Abrams.
“She’ll make your schools and neighborhoods unsafe and make your jobs disappear like magic.”
4:40 p.m.: Trump now laces into Abrams’ record, warning that her victory will have “Georgia turn into Venezuela” and calling her one of the “most extreme, far-left politicians in the entire country.”
“She wants to raise your income tax very substantially, she wants to raise your property tax very substantially,” he said, adding “she supports a socialistic takeover of health care.”
Abrams supports expanding Medicaid and initially wanted to reverse a state income tax before reversing her position.
4:30 p.m. A plea from the sidelines: Trump summoned former Georgia coach Vince Dooley on stage to tout the president.
He thanks Trump for “keeping your promises” and mentions how legendary tailback Herschel Walker also backs Kemp’s campaign.
“You’ll be hearing from him in the next day or two.”
4:23 p.m. Trump said Democrats would work to “eradicate all the gains that we made” by raising taxes, imposing regulations and fighting his plan to build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico.
“You’ve got to get to the polls on Tuesday and you’ve got to vote. The contrast in this election could not be more clear: Republicans produce jobs. Democrats produce mobs,” said Trump, as many in the crowd echoed his response.
“You’ve heard that? You’ve seen it. You’ve seen it.”
4:15 p.m. The president touts Kemp as a candidate who would bring Georgia to new levels of success.
“I know Brian. This guy doesn’t stop. This is what you want. He’s an incredible manager. He’s been successful all the way up the line. He’ll bring it to heights you wouldn’t believe.”
4:10 p.m. Trump cast the vote as a referendum on the "extraordinary prosperity that we've created."
“Will we let the Democrats take a giant wrecking ball to our economy and our future?” he asked the crowd, that roared its disapproval. “It can be destroyed very quickly. That’s why you have to get to the polls very quickly.”
4:05 p.m. Trump arrives to rapturous reception from the throngs of his supporters packing a Macon airport hangar.
He calls the midterm one of the most important in U.S. history – “not as important as 2016” - and urged Republicans to vote Kemp to “protect your jobs, defend your borders, fight for your values and continue to make America great again.”
3:10 p.m. Kemp urged conservatives to build a “red beautiful wall” to block a Democratic blue wave with Trump’s support.
“I’ll work with President Trump and Vice President Trump to keep Georgia working, and we’ll do our part to make the Peach State great again,” he said, later adding that Republican support will “make America even greater.”
Facing a tight race with Abrams, he predicted Trump’s arrival will “give us the momentum we need to win big on Election Day,” summoning up memories of how the president’s late endorsement turbo-charged his runoff victory.
“I’ve got a question for you: Are you ready to build a wall?” he asked the crowd of thousands arrayed in an airport hangar, which roared its approval.
“I’ve got another question for you: Are you ready to vote on Tuesday?”
3 p.m. Gov. Nathan Deal focused his remarks on the package of $1.6 trillion tax cuts that Trump signed into law, allowing Georgia lawmakers to slash the state’s income tax rate.
“This is not a coincidence. It’s the result of Republican leadership in the U.S. Congress … and also in the Georgia General Assembly, he said. “These things require committed conservatives focusing on the issues that matter.”
He added: “Brian Kemp is going to carry that legacy forward and improve upon it and give you even more tax cuts.”
2:45 p.m. He just couldn’t resist.
Geoff Duncan, the GOP nominee for lieutenant governor, is also a former baseball player. And he put today’s visit in these terms: “The other side brought their closer in the other day – Barack Obama. We’re bringing in our closer: Donald J. Trump.”
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, a former Georgia governor, echoed that theme: “He’s got a 110 miles per hour fastball – and he’ll zip it right by them.”
Perdue went on to remind the crowd that he is a former Democrat who flipped to the GOP more than a decade ago.
“You might have some friends who still label themselves as a Democrat,” said Perdue. “But make them understand – this woman isn’t a Democrat. She’s a socialist.”
2:20 p.m. On his way to Macon, Trump chatted with reporters for about eight minutes, touting the enthusiasm of crowds at his rallies.
“I can't speak to the blue, but I can speak to the red,” he said, predicting a Kemp victory.
When asked if he believes there was voter suppression in Georgia, Trump said “No,” and talked about Kemp’s “extraordinary” gubernatorial campaign.
“He studied for this job for a long time,” said Trump. “He will be a great executive.”
2 p.m. Thousands of upbeat Trump fans wearing red “Make America Great Again” hats are filtering into the grounds of a Macon airport, where the president will address the gathering around 4 p.m.
Among the throngs was Rose Brown, a middle Georgia nurse who said the president’s tax cut plan has reinforced her support for Republican candidates. She worries that Democrats will work to undercut those cuts.
“Socialists and Democrats do not understand that the government gets its money by taking it from the paychecks of working people,” she said.
Ditto for Lee Mitchell, a 60-year-old letter carrier from Culloden. He said he’s “very nervous” going into Tuesday’s vote.
“I’m very much hoping that Kemp’s going to win and that we hold onto the House - because if we don’t, everything is going to stall.”
It was Mitchell’s first rally, but Pam Ausman has been to more than a dozen. The Newnan retiree attended Trump’s inauguration and has toured the Southeast in a bus rapped in “Trump 2020” signs.
“He says it like it is,” said Ausman, “and everything that he says is something that we’re all thinking.”
As for recent polls that showed the race in a statistical tie, Ausman said she’s a skeptic.
“It’s just like the silent majority in 2016,” she said. “Nobody thought he could win, and he did.”
1:30 p.m. Abrams is holding a town hall meeting later Sunday to answer questions about her policies – and presumably about Trump’s rally for her opponent. But she offered a preview in a Sunday appearance on “Meet the Press.”
When host Chuck Todd asked her about Trump’s assertion that she’s “unqualified” to be governor, she quickly listed her accomplishments.
“I find his assessments to be vapid and shallow. I am the most qualified candidate,” she said, citing her Yale Law School education and legislative and business background. “There is no one more qualified standing for this office in Georgia. And I look forward to having the voters of Georgia say the same.”
The president’s visit comes two days after former President Barack Obama headlined an Atlanta rally for Abrams that drew thousands of supporters. Vice President Mike Pence and talk show icon Oprah Winfrey have also made campaign appearances in Georgia over the past week.
Trump has been a dominant political force in Georgia, a state he won by roughly 5 percentage points two years ago. His surprise endorsement of the secretary of state helped turbocharge Kemp’s victory over Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle in the July primary runoff.
Trump has visited the state twice this year, to survey damage from Hurricane Michael and attend the Georgia-Alabama national championship football game back in January. His last campaign-focused trip was in April 2017, when he spoke at a National Rifle Association meeting in Atlanta and fundraised for then-congressional hopeful Karen Handel.
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