On Tuesday, in a 45-minute conference call with reporters, top aides to Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden played down the likelihood that their candidate would blow away the competition in the first two 2020 primary contests in Iowa and New Hampshire.
In other words, he’d still be viable if the white voters who dominate balloting in those two states snub him. It’s all about winning the African-American vote in South Carolina on Feb. 29. We’ll let this morning’s report from Politico take it from there:
According to two advisers who requested anonymity and a source who spoke with Biden, Biden’s campaign believes he needs to win two of the first four early states. One of those states probably needs to be Iowa or New Hampshire, the sources said. But he can’t get blown out in either — or in the third early state, Nevada, which Biden has visited less often than the others.
“I don’t see any path for Biden to win the nomination without South Carolina,” said Mark Longabaugh, a longtime Democratic strategist who’s neutral in the race and worked for Bernie Sanders' 2016 presidential campaign. “African American support for Biden is crucial for his candidacy.”
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms attended the first Democratic presidential debate at Jill Biden’s side, and did spin room duty in the second -- a job she’s likely to repeat in Houston next week.
On Thursday evening, a Biden press release indicated that her surrogate duties will be expanded. She’ll spend three days in South Carolina later this month -- as part of Biden’s firewall brigade.
Today’s dead-tree edition includes a lengthy story about all the maneuvering afoot in the still-developing race for U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson’s seat. Here’s a few of the latest-breaking developments:
-- The Georgia Republican Assembly, a more conservative rival to the state GOP, passed a unanimous resolution urging Gov. Brian Kemp to appoint former congressman Paul Broun to the seat. They also started an online petition supporting the ultra-conservative, big game-hunting doctor for the post. Both Kemp and Broun are from Athens, but don’t count on that -- or the petition -- having any impact on Kemp’s decision.
The GRA petition is the result of a straw poll conducted last Saturday. Coming in behind Broun were former state senators Josh McKoon, Mike Crane, and David Shafer. Shafer is now chairman of the Georgia GOP, and has made it exceedingly clear that he has no interest in the U.S. Senate seat.
-- Contenders are already surfacing to replace U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, R-Gainesville, if he’s appointed to the seat. (He’s seen as a perceived front-runner, though Kemp hasn’t started to vet candidates yet.) Among the possible contenders for the conservative Gainesville-based district: Senate President pro tem Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, and radio host Martha Zoller, a past candidate for the Ninth District congressional seat.
In its look at Georgia’s U.S. Senate race No. 2, the New York Times focuses on U.S. Rep. Doug Collins as President Donald Trump’s top defender on the House Judiciary Committee. The article also has this line:
Mr. Collins himself has placed calls stating his interest in the seat to Mr. Kemp and to Mr. Trump, a potentially powerful ally who could sway the governor’s thinking, according to people familiar with the calls.
The state budget just became one of the most contentious issues of the 2020 session of the Georgia General Assembly. From our AJC colleague James Salzer:
Gov. Brian Kemp sent state agencies Thursday a memo making it clear that he wants them to provide him plans to cut their budgets and a chance to formally review them before the General Assembly gets involved.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Monday that Kemp was trying to head off legislative requests for budget plans and joint House-Senate budget hearings planned for later this month…
In the memo, Kemp’s executive counsel David Dove wrote, “Your submission of budget requests to the governor is required before any submissions are made to the General Assembly.” He said under law, the governor is also supposed to hear from agencies about their plans before lawmakers get involved.
Kemp had ordered heavy cuts to a state budget that most recently amounted to $27.5 billion. State lawmakers, including House Speaker David Ralston, had wanted an early look at the governor’s intentions. Hearings had been scheduled for later this month.
Many state lawmakers would dispute the notion that the governor has exclusive domain over early budget numbers. In any case, the preemption by the governor means that when Kemp does reveal his budget plan for 2020-21, it will receive intense scrutiny, especially in the House, where spending bills originate.
This weekend U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, will be holding her third in-person town hall since being sworn into the U.S. House in January. The event will take place at Temple Emanu-El in Sandy Springs at 1 p.m on Sunday.
McBath has been taking a victory lap after President Trump signed her first bill into law. The Honoring American Veterans in Extreme Need Act bars debt collectors from seizing disability payments from veterans that go bankrupt. It fixes a loophole in bankruptcy law that treated veterans’ disability payments differently from those granted to Social Security beneficiaries.
The bipartisan legislation originated in the Senate, sponsored by U.S. Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc. The measure passed both chambers of Congress by voice vote and was signed by Trump late last month, a rarity for a bill attached to freshman lawmaker.
“I introduced this bill because our disabled veterans have earned their benefits, and it’s our duty to stand up for them if they fall on tough times,” McBath said.
Stacey Abrams has joined the board of Priorities USA, one of the biggest spending groups in Democratic politics. Consider it the latest sign of Georgia’s importance in the 2020 election.
In other Abrams-related news, the former gubernatorial nominee plans to speak Saturday at the College Democrats of America convention at Tulane University.
Former Gov. Roy Barnes is hosting a Sept. 17 fundraiser in Atlanta for Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, the same day the governor’s Republican rivals will attend an energy conference in Lafayette, La. The Barnes event will cost $500 to attend — and $10,000 to be listed as a sponsor.