President Donald Trump speaks to the press during a meeting with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban in the Oval Office on Monday. Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images
Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The Jolt: A Trump-endorsed super PAC readies for battle in Georgia

The super PAC endorsed by President Donald Trump is already making plans to compete in Georgia.

Operatives with America First Action have outlined a strategy to defend the state, which Trump carried by 5 percentage points in 2016. It’s expected to be a battleground next year.

We didn’t get a firm financial commitment, aside from an overall goal to raise $300 million, but operators of the super PAC have identified Georgia as one of six “priority states.”

The super PAC’s strategists figure that it will take 2.5 million votes to win Georgia, and that Trump is already guaranteed about 1.9 million votes -- roughly the amount Gov. Brian Kemp won last year.

That means it will be targeting the 600,000 or so other voters it needs to close the gap, mainly in metro Atlanta’s suburbs, where Trump and Kemp both have struggled.

The remainder of this year will be spent polling and conducting focus groups to sharpen messages and target voters. 

On-the-fence suburbanites who don’t like his tweets but do like his agenda will get one angle. Rural conservatives who skipped the last election will get another. 

Expect the advertising spigots to open next year when voters start to tune in and the Democratic presidential field begins to narrow. 

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The time has come for Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to work on his phrasing.

ProPublica, the nonprofit newsroom based in New York, has a piece out on a “Democracy Tour” organized by Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill — a three-day visit to Alabama’s most historically significant civil rights monuments and museums for the chief election administrators of 18 states.

Raffensperger was one of the 18. They visited Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King Jr. preached as he organized the Montgomery bus boycott. In the same city, they visited Court Square Fountain, the site of slave auctions. The election officials even went to Selma and walked across the Edmund Pettus Bridge a la John Lewis.

This is the paragraph that disturbs, our emphasis added:

Raffensperger said he was happy to be on the tour and had found it moving. He said he was “very grateful for the change in the South — it’s moved our country forward.” But the violence and discrimination activists such as Martin Luther King Jr. had fought against were gone, he said, citing record turnout and registration. “Those barriers, if they were ever there, obviously they’re not there in Georgia today.”

Led by Stacey Abrams, Georgia Democrats still maintain that voter suppression occurred in the 2018 campaign. Given that Raffensperger, a Republican, replaced Brian Kemp as secretary of state, it’s no surprise that Raffensperger has declared Georgia’s current voting system to be as clean as a whistle.

(We would note, however, that as much as he and other Republicans like to point to the sharp rise in African-American voters in 2018, increased volume isn’t evidence against point-shaving.)

But that’s not what concerns us this morning. More disturbing is the phrase “if they were ever there,” as applied to a well-documented century of legal and extra-legal disenfranchisement of African-Americans in the South. Barriers that included poll taxes, literacy tests, murder, lynching, billy clubs, dogs and fire hoses.

Possibly, this can be written off as a verbal gaffe on Raffensperger’s part. One hopes so. Because those barriers did exist, even in Georgia. It is a fact unworthy of any doubt, under any circumstance or in any context.

Updated at 12:30 p.m.:  Jordan Fuchs, deputy secretary of state for Brad Raffensperger, has sent a statement that includes this:

“Of course, he knows these barriers existed in the past. That was the point of the trip, to highlight those horrific past obstacles. However, his statement was in relation to the amazing strides in both voter registration and voter turnout in Georgia’s elections. Those who would twist his statement to claim he is saying there were never any barriers are intentionally misleading the public.

“We can only assume they do this to support a continuing false narrative that Georgia, despite being a national leader in automated voting, online voter registration record minority registration, and record minority turnout -- that there was some fantasy of ‘voter suppression’ that kept Stacey Abrams out of the governor’s office.”

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A group of women working in Georgia’s film industry is urging Hollywood opponents of the state’s new “heartbeat” law to put the brakes on talk of a boycott. More than 900 have signed a petition posted to change.org with a promise to be the “resistance from the inside” Georgia.

"Your condemnation is understandable, but what we really need most is allies. Change is coming,” the petition states. “Your support and encouragement is appreciated, however you can give it."

Progressive film stars such as Alyssa Milano and George Takei have vowed not to work in Georgia. The Los Angeles Times, which drew our attention to the petition, quotes production designer Hannah Beachler:

“Don’t boycott Georgia,” she said on Twitter. “Leaving comes from a place of privilege. Stay, donate, help fight w/ the women & children… FIGHT 4 the people, fight against this bill. Don’t abandon those who need us most. Govt. want u 2 go, by design. & when u go they’ll do worse.”

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It is difficult to say which bit of Washington news is more disturbing today. On one hand, we have U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., chairman of the chamber’s judiciary committee, advising Donald Trump Jr. to take the Fifth if he appears before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

But then there’s this white flag on President Donald Trump’s trade war with China, noted by Politico.com:

Senate Republicans acknowledge that the president’s latest tariff increase on Chinese imports are harming farm state economies, their own constituents and some of Trump’s most reliable voters. But there’s no plan to stop, or even threaten, the president’s tariff regime — just the latest example of Trump imposing his protectionist will on a party that once celebrated free trade.

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Today’s bit of wisdom from Jamie Dupree of WSB Radio, on the vacancies within the Trump administration:

I hear a lot of complaining that President Trump’s nominees are being slow-walked through the U.S. Senate, mainly due to the opposition of Democrats. But I’ve noticed that it also takes a long time for the White House to get the needed work done to get a nomination ready for the U.S. Senate.

Take the job of FEMA administrator. Brock Long resigned from the post on Feb. 13. On Feb. 15, the White House announced the President intended to nominate Jeffrey Byard to be the new head of FEMA. One month. Two months. Precisely three months later – on Monday, May 13 – the president actually submitted the Byard nomination to the Senate. 

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The Democratic Party of Georgia is making the most of the mega-fundraiser that will feature Cory Booker, Pete Buttigieg and Beto O’Rourke in Atlanta next month.

Rather than hosting a fundraising dinner in the summer, Georgia Democrats will throw the official after-party for the IWillVote Gala at the Havana Club. 

Frank Ski of V103 is the host and featured deejay, and other prominent guests are likely to attend.

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