Obama gets a bipartisan welcome during his visit to Georgia Tech

Credit: Greg Bluestein

Credit: Greg Bluestein

When President Barack Obama last came to Atlanta, he was spurned by high-profile Democrats and Republicans alike. Democrats Jason Carter and Michelle Nunn didn't venture to see him so close to the election, and Gov. Nathan Deal steered well clear of Air Force One.

With no election looming, though, Obama is no longer seen as quite so toxic to Georgia top-ticket candidates. Georgia's Democratic elite came out in force to welcome the president Tuesday and - in perhaps the biggest surprise - so did the governor.

All recognize that with November's contest behind them, they can afford to visit with the lame-duck president. And even lobby him for a favor or two.

Deal, for one, said he used a brief meeting with the president to thank him for devoting federal funding to dredge Savannah's port - and to plug his proposal to create a statewide district with power to take control of Georgia's most distressed schools.

“I told him what we were doing with the Opportunity School District," said Deal. "And if we get it passed, we’re probably going to call on him to help with it.”

It may have been an uncomfortable meeting: Deal wrote a letter to the White House while a member of Congress calling on Obama to produce his birth certificate amid questions about whether he was born in the United States. He has since said he was passing along concerns from his constituents and that he believes the matter is settled.

Carter, who ran against Deal in November, sat in the second row of a section of dignitaries near the stage, not far from the governor. The former state senator faced criticism from fellow Democrats for missing the president's speech on combating Ebola last fall and not more openly embracing the White House during the campaign. Obama is vilified by many conservatives in Georgia but remains widely popular with Democrats.

"It's not every day that the sitting president of the United States comes to your home town," said Carter, who has returned to his law practice. "And I was glad to see Gov. Deal there."

(Matt McGrath, Carter's former campaign manager, offered an explanation on Twitter  for his ex-boss' appearance when he quipped "we finally have some Ebola-related issues to discuss." Other ex-staffers noted Carter gladly attended an Atlanta event helmed by First Lady Michelle Obama.)

A host of other Democrats attended the gathering, including Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, Democratic Party of Georgia head DuBose Porter and Rep. Hank Johnson. Obama also met with Democratic donors, including film mogul Tyler Perry, at events across Atlanta.

State Sen. Vincent Fort, an Obama supporter who also attended the event, pointed to the thousands of Georgia Tech students who had waited in line for hours to hear the president outline a sweeping student debt proposal.

"It's out of season now. I don't begrudge Jason anything," said Fort, D-Atlanta. "But I will say that president's popularity and presence is good for Democrats. And this is proof positive that his proposals and policies remain very important for our party."

After his Georgia Tech gig, the president engaged in some see-it-before-it's-gone tourism.

Obama went to Manuel's Tavern, a bar sacred to Democratic politicos that keeps an oil portrait of JFK above the beer pulls. Manuel's is soon scheduled to be closed for a makeover. Alas, it was closed to press.

ExploreFrom Brian Maloof's Facebook page:

So I am standing behind the bar, I'm with my cousin Steve Maloof.. 15 minutes ago we met the president. I couldn't help but think of my father and Steve's father. I know that what Steve and I were just able to do was because of Robert and Manuel Maloof.. I'm so glad I got to do this with Steve. I'm about ready to cry just thinking how beautiful it was to be able to do this with him. We were able to recreate a little moment of his father and my father working together.