Stacey Abrams supporter Ryan Mintz[cq] (right) greets people as they arrive for the State Abrams watch party at Noni's restaurant in Atlanta on Tuesday. ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM
Photo: Alyssa Pointer/ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJ
Photo: Alyssa Pointer/ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJ

The Jolt: A debate coach grades Stacey Abrams’ post-SOTU performance

Aaron Kall, director of debate at the University of Michigan, is well-versed in the art of public discourse, and is the editor/co-author of “The State of the Union Is...Memorable Addresses of the Last Fifty Years."

Last night, Kall was kind enough to tap out some thoughts on Stacey Abrams’ performance as the Democratic answer to President Donald Trump’s SOTU address. To wit:

Overall, Stacey Abrams' response to President Trump's State of the Union address was largely a success. Having a live crowd standing behind her worked and the speech ended with raucous applause. It's certainly always favorable to end on a high note.

She did a good job of inserting her unique biography into the address and told a touching personal story about her dad's generosity. Only having 10 minutes to combat President Trump's lengthy address caused Abrams to speak at a very rapid pace, but the contrast in duration between the two was stark and likely appreciated by the viewing audience.

She deftly focused on the major layoffs presently occurring cross the country, while President Trump noticeably failed to mention these when talking about blue collar workers.

Trump, surprisingly, didn't bring up what is currently happening at General Motors, despite the electoral importance of Michigan in the 2020 election.

Abrams' line about President Trump putting children in cages is controversial, as opponents will point to some other restrictive immigration policies that President Obama also exercised while in office.

She closed the response by highlighting her signature issue of Americans having the right to vote. Tonight's solid response will increase the national stature and profile of Abrams.

The buzz around a potential Senate campaign to challenge David Perdue will only grow, as the outcome could determine control of the Senate in 2020. Anderson Cooper of CNN may have summed it up best immediately after the response: "I liked that one better."

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WSB Radio’s Jamie Dupree, who was at the U.S. Capitol last night, sent this note before he turned in:

If there was one moment which crystallized last night it was about an hour after the speech was over, and the Capitol was clearing out.

Two lawmakers, one from each party, ran into each other in a Capitol hallway. The Republican was all smiles. “That was the greatest speech I ever saw.”

The Democrat looked at him like he was crazy. “That was the worst speech ever.”

You’ll remember that, two years ago, Dupree lost his voice – a huge blow to a man who talks for a living. His condition is known as dystonia, a disconnection between brain and tongue that is difficult to treat.

Georgia Public Broadcasting’s “Your Fantastic Mind,” a new TV series done in conjunction with Emory University, recently examined Dupree’s situation. Click here to watch the YouTube clip:

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Speaker Nancy Pelosi applauds President Donald Trump during his the State of the Union address in the chamber of the U.S. House on Tuesday. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Last night, for the first time, President Donald Trump delivered a State of the Union address with someone who is not his friend sitting behind him. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi never said a word – but let her hands do the talking. They’re calling it a sarcastic “clapback.” From the Washington Post:

[W]hen Trump, who has been accused of exacerbating deep divisions, declared, “we must reject the politics of revenge, resistance and retribution and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise and the common good,” she appeared to be unable to hold back.

Rising from her seat along with others in attendance, Pelosi began applauding with her arms oddly extended out toward the president. When Trump turned toward her and the pair locked eyes, Pelosi, still clapping, appeared to smirk.

***

Just hours before Stacey Abrams gave her rebuttal, one of her top allies started a “draft Stacey” campaign to urge a U.S. Senate bid. 

Sarah Riggs Amico, who lost her bid for Georgia’s No. 2 job last year, launched a crowd-funding campaign on Crowdpac to raise cash to help a future Abrams effort for federal office. 

It’s seeking donations of $20.20 to push Abrams to challenge Republican David Perdue next year - a task she seems increasingly likely to accept. 

***

On Saturday, Republicans in Georgia will begin the extended, multi-month process of picking delegates to this year’s state convention, where a new party chairman will be elected.

John Watson, the current chair, has announced he’s not seeking re-election. Scott Johnson, former chairman of the Cobb GOP, has already jumped into the race. Alec Johnson of DeKalb County, this morning sent out a note reminding Republicans of Saturday’s importance. He offered a strong hint that Johnson won’t be unopposed.

Johnson noted that the Georgia Republican Assembly, a more conservative subgroup within the state GOP, has already endorsed a candidate for chairman -- “when/if he declares.”

That’s former state senator Josh McKoon of Columbus, who was the champion of “religious liberty” legislation in the Capitol, and now is executive director of the Georgia chapter of the Faith and Freedom Coalition. McKoon is also on the staff of state Insurance Commissioner Jim Beck.

***

The Marietta Daily Journal this morning quotes state Sen. Jen Jordan, D-Atlanta, on why the Legislature should take up ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. Call it redemption:

“1920 was the year that the 19th Amendment was passed or ratified in terms of giving women the right to vote, but Georgia ... was the first state to reject the 19th Amendment, and in fact did not ratify the 19th Amendment to give women the right to vote until 1970,” Jordan said.

***

The U.S. Senate has been the bottleneck in recent years for legislation upping federal protections for several Georgia historic parks, but we have some new movement to report. The chamber kicked off debate Tuesday on a public lands package that includes language to expand the boundaries of Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, Fort Frederica National Monument on St. Simons Island and Ocmulgee National Monument in Macon. Once the chamber passes the legislation it’ll be up to the U.S. House to decide its fate.

Lawmakers and President Donald Trump signed off on a bill last year that created Georgia’s first national historic park at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta.

***

U.S Sen. David Perdue hasn’t said how he would have voted on a symbolic amendment disapproving of President Trump’s troop withdrawals in Syria and Afghanistan, but the first-term Republican hinted Tuesday that he wasn’t happy about the Senate’s bipartisan vote in the first place.

In a statement about his support of the underlying foreign policy bill on Tuesday, Perdue said he was “disappointed that some have used this process for political posturing.”

Perdue was a no-show at Monday evening’s vote on the Syria and Afghanistan provision, which was ultimately supported by 70 members of the Senate, including his Georgia GOP colleague, Johnny Isakson. A spokeswoman said the Trump ally had previously-scheduled meetings to attend in Georgia that day. Back in 2015, Perdue had warned, with Barack Obama in the White House, against moving too quickly on troop drawdowns.

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