The Jolt: Donald Trump wanted GOP voters in S.C. to vote for Bernie Sanders. They didn’t.

November 6, 2018 Atlanta : Voters waited over an hour to vote at Henry W. Grady High School at 29 Charles Allen Dr NE, in Atlanta on Tuesday Nov. 6, 2018. Metro Atlanta polling places reported steady lines as voters went to the polls Tuesday. Georgia voters were asked Nov. 6 whether the state constitution should be amended to give a 10-year, $200 million boost to land conservation, solidify the states commitment to crime victims and cut timberland taxes. Five proposedamendmentsappeared on the ballot, which most notably settles the long and hard-fought races for governor and other key offices. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM
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November 6, 2018 Atlanta : Voters waited over an hour to vote at Henry W. Grady High School at 29 Charles Allen Dr NE, in Atlanta on Tuesday Nov. 6, 2018. Metro Atlanta polling places reported steady lines as voters went to the polls Tuesday. Georgia voters were asked Nov. 6 whether the state constitution should be amended to give a 10-year, $200 million boost to land conservation, solidify the states commitment to crime victims and cut timberland taxes. Five proposedamendmentsappeared on the ballot, which most notably settles the long and hard-fought races for governor and other key offices. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

Last week, at his rally in South Carolina, President Donald Trump cajoled his supporters to vote in Saturday's Democratic presidential primary. In fact, there was an organized, upstate GOP campaign to do that – given that Republicans had decided against any primary to the president.

There's little evidence to suggest this actually happened. From Vox.com:

Despite Trump's urging, an exit poll from the Washington Post showed just 5 percent of registered Republicans actually voted in the primary, a number too small for pollsters to give details on which Democratic candidate received the most votes from that group. Registered Democrats made up 70 percent of everyone who voted in the primary, while independent voters accounted for 26 percent, according to that poll.

The same thing could be attempted in Georgia on March 24. Like South Carolina, our presidential primary is an open one. And as in South Carolina, Trump has already been declared the winner in his contest. He will be the only candidate listed.

But persuading voters to troll the opposition with their ballots is harder than it may seem. First, casual voters have better things to do. Party activists are often wary, too. They are more likely to seek positions within the organization, or elected office. The very act of picking up a Democratic ballot has become an issue in several GOP primary contests in Georgia – despite claims that the offender was merely trying to sabotage the opposition.

Then there’s the fact that, once they pick up a Democratic ballot, they’ll be forever on Democratic mailing lists.

This evening, Trump will be in North Carolina, one of 14 Super Tuesday states. It has a semi-closed primary system. Declared partisans can vote only in their own primaries, but unaffiliated voters can pick up either Democratic or Republican ballots on Tuesday.

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President Donald Trump is set to visit the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday, as he tries to calm growing fears about the coronavirus outbreak.

But Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue may give us a preview this morning.

He’ll be in Savannah for a speech to the National Farmers Union Annual Convention. While there, he’ll tour the Port of Savannah. Port officials last week said they’re expecting a 30 to 40% drop in port traffic in March and April – the result of the extreme drop in production that accompanied that nation’s response to the coronavirus.

On Friday, during an appearance in Texas, Perdue used a word that other Trump administration officials had shied away from: "Pandemic."

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A week of qualifying begins at the state Capitol this morning. This is where we'll keep a running tally of who is signing up for what offices.

For instance, former Republican and tea party leader Brian Slowinski says he’ll join the race to unseat U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler under the banner of the Libertarian Party. That makes seven candidates: Three Democrats, two Republicans, an independent, and now a Libertarian.

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Water cooler ammunition: 14 states vote on Super Tuesday with 1,338 delegates at stake.

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Former Vice President Joe Biden's blow-out in South Carolina on Saturday, followed by Pete Buttigieg's exit on Sunday, has put extreme pressure on the rest of the Democratic presidential field. A key paragraph from the New York Times:

In a blunt memo on Sunday, [Elizabeth] Warren's campaign all but admitted she no longer has a path to the nomination beyond a contested Democratic convention. Mr. Bloomberg appeared in a three-minute nationwide commercial on Sunday night, further pushing the bounds of what his billions could buy after his candidacy was undercut by his debate performances. And Senator Amy Klobuchar strained to make the case she was still a serious contender, boasting that she had been "in the top five vote getters in these small caucuses and primaries" in a local television interview.

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Former South Bend, Ind., mayor Pete Buttigieg and his husband met with former President Jimmy Carter and Rosalyn Carter for breakfast in Plains on Sunday. Hours later, Buttigieg announced he was folding his tent.

That left some wondering what had been said over grits and eggs. Not us. We were reminded of that time when Carter persuaded Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega to step down after voters rejected his re-election in 1990 – by pointing to his own defeat in 1980.

Certainly, Carter told Buttigieg that there is virtue in the graceful acceptance of a loss.

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Both the Washington Post and New York Times were on the same track this weekend, looking at Southern white women who have moved away from President Donald Trump. The Post highlights Miranda Murphey of suburban Augusta:

She is 39, a high school English teacher with a PhD and part of a voting demographic whose rebellion could upend the political map of the country: not just suburban women, not just white suburban women, but white suburban women in the South, whose loyalty Trump will need to remain in power.

The NYT version carries a Virginia Beach, Va., dateline:

There were potential warning signs for Democrats in the poll should Mr. Sanders become the nominee: Nearly one in five suburban Democrats said they would not support him against Mr. Trump in November.

"I don't think Bernie can win," said Pat Barner, a retiree here in Virginia Beach, the southern point in a crescent of suburbs running through Richmond to Northern Virginia, which have politically transformed the state. The State Legislature, where Democrats won control in November for the first time in a generation, is swiftly moving to enact Democratic priorities on guns, abortion, minimum wage and L.G.B.T.Q. rights.

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The coronavirus has now infected Georgia politics. President Donald Trump retweeted Dr. Rich McCormick, a Republican physician running for Georgia's 7th District, after he accused Democrats of trying to blame the president for the spread of the illness.

"The Democrats will never let a good crisis go to waste," McCormick says in a video he sent out via Twitter. "They're trying to blame President Trump for a virus. Tell me what we haven't done to contain this virus? So far, nobody in the United States has died of it. We have zero cases in Georgia."

This video was posted on Thursday, before health officials reported the first U.S. fatality linked to the virus.

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Days after state Sen. Emanuel Jones, D-Lithonia, switched his endorsement from Teresa Tomlinson to Jon Ossoff, the latter's campaign suffered a flip of its own. Atlanta City Councilwoman Andrea Boone endorsed the former Columbus mayor on Monday, months after backing Ossoff's campaign.

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State Rep. Shelly Hutchinson will hold a press conference Monday to outline her legislation that would replace the term "illegal aliens" with "undocumented person" in the official code of Georgia. House Resolution 1169, backed by a host of other suburban Democrats, would align Georgia's official law with how the media has described people in the country without authorization for years.

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With the start of early voting today, so begins a new phase of the presidential election in Georgia. And U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren's campaign is attacking it with gusto.

Her Georgia operation will kick off a half-dozen early vote outreach efforts in suburban Atlanta, along with a "policy pop-up" event in Buford next week. Her campaign said 150 volunteers knocked on more than 2,000 doors in the last week. Read more about Georgia's epic political week here.

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The National Republican Senatorial Committee latest attack ad against U.S. Rep. Doug Collins of Gainesville has some conservatives crying foul.

The ad, titled "Convenient Conservative," depicts Collins as someone who only began defending Donald Trump when he set his eyes on the Senate seat -- which is demonstrably inaccurate.

The spot also accuses him of being too close with Democrats, and that’s what is raising eyebrows. The NRSC spot only mentions three Democrats, all African-American: Former candidate for governor Stacey Abrams, former President Barack Obama and U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York.

Caffeinated Thoughts, a conservative Christian blog, published an essay from an author who wrote that the NRSC was playing to "racist elements in the deep South. This is a textbook dog whistle."

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U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler and her Republican challenger attended the same event for the first time since Rep. Doug Collins announced his bid for the seat.

Our AJC colleague Sarah Kallis reports that the two stayed mostly apart at a gathering of the Georgia Federation of Republican Women in Atlanta. Each time Collins inches closer to Loeffler, she moved away without acknowledging him.

While there, Collins said he intended to be among the first to qualify for the race this morning.

Collins said he wasn’t concerned about two Republicans running for the same seat.

“No one asked that when we had five Republicans running for governor, and we have a Republican governor now,” he said of the 2018 race. “It’s a lie that they’re saying to get me out of the race because I’m winning.”

Loeffler, in her opposite corner of the room, continued to ignore Collins, and said she was not aware he was at the event.

“Is he here?” she asked at one point.

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State Rep. Kevin Tanner has some powerful supporters for his bid for U.S. Rep. Doug Collins' Ninth District seat. Not only is he backed by allies of Gov. Brian Kemp, but he's also supported by former Gov. Nathan Deal and many of his north Georgia allies.

Deal will headline a March 3 fundraiser for Tanner in Gainesville that also features Chris Riley, his former chief of staff; Phil Wilheit, an influential donor; and many other members of the Gainesville glitterati.

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Some very interesting news about a 2019 ransomware attack on the city of Cartersville, from The Daily Tribune News:

Newly publicized documents indicate the City of Cartersville did indeed pay the ransomware attackers — to the tune of $380,000 in non-tradable Bitcoins, "with an additional $7,755.65 paid for transaction fees and negotiators."

The payout is significantly lower than the amount demanded by the individuals responsible for the ransomware attack. Per Cartersville Assistant City Attorney Keith Lovell, the sum sought by the hackers was initially $2.8 million.

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Republicans in the state Senate are again pushing proposals aimed at stifling plaintiffs' litigation and curbing big jury awards, according to our AJC colleague Bill Rankin. The one to watch, he says, is Senate Bill 415:

Proponents of SB 415 made sure it bypassed the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has trial lawyers as members, and was instead assigned to the Insurance and Labor Committee, where it received a warm reception.

At a Thursday press conference, [state Sen. Steve] Gooch said he hopes the committee will approve SB 415 sometime this week.

"The reputation of Georgia's civil justice system is being called into question," said Gooch, who owns an environmental services business.