Welcome to the battleground.
Georgia’s performance in the last presidential election — Donald Trump won the state by 5 percentage points, a narrow margin of victory in recent years for a Republican running in the state — always meant it would be playing a bigger role in 2020.
That was already obvious last year when just about every Democrat with designs on the Oval Office came to the state to campaign for Stacey Abrams in the governor’s race.
Now, a super PAC endorsed by Trump has identified Georgia as one of six “priority states.”
The group, America First Action, is mapping out its battle plan.
Its strategists predict it will take 2.5 million votes to win Georgia. They figure that Trump already has 1.9 million votes in his pocket, roughly the same amount that Republican Brian Kemp received in winning the governor’s race. That makes a lot of sense because Kemp did everything he could to follow Trump’s strategy in 2016: winning the state’s rural areas by large margins, hoping they would outnumber Democratic gains in urban and suburban Georgia.
So that means — as America First Action sees it — 600,000 more votes will take the prize.
To win them, the super PAC will spend the rest of this year surveying the landscape — through polls and focus groups — to seek the best ground to fight on in targeting voters. One approach will probably focus on suburbanites, another on the rural conservatives who skipped the 2016 contest.
You’ll probably get to see it all in advertising next year.
Making it about morality: If Georgia Republican U.S. Sen. David Perdue’s appearance this past week on “Fox and Friends” is a clue, the 2020 fight will include echoes of the culture war.
The former Fortune 500 CEO wasn’t on the morning show to talk about Trump’s tariff increases on Chinese imports. He was there to defend Georgia’s anti-abortion heartbeat law.
The law — which would bar most abortions once a heartbeat has been detected in the womb and before many women know they are pregnant — has generated talk of boycott within the state’s $9.5 billion film and television industry.
That could give the Republicans who moved the heartbeat legislation, House Bill 481, through the General Assembly a great — and possibly necessary — opponent in a fight of us versus them. Hollywood-type celebrities were born to play the role of “them.”
On its own, the anti-abortion measure has the potential to drive many female voters out of the GOP tent. But if it turns into a contest over West Coast morals, at least some of those women could be less likely to leave.
Perdue landed his first jab, calling it “ironic that several of these companies that are threatening to boycott have yet to do business in Georgia.”
The senator then defended Kemp. “This governor did exactly what the state Legislature voted to do, what the people of Georgia elected him to do,” Perdue said.
He then added, “It’s a moral issue, and I think the people of Georgia have spoken.”
Stay for the fight: Some women working in Georgia’s film industry sent their own message Hollywood's way: Don’t disengage.
More than 900 signed a petition posted on change.org opposing a boycott and promising to be the “resistance from the inside.”
“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.”
The Los Angeles Times quoted 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.”
“We have to recognize that Georgia is the only state that is such a deep part of the film industry that also has the type of draconian leadership that would seek to strip a woman’s autonomy in this way,” she said. “That puts us in a unique position to fight back — not only against the legislation here but the legislation around the country — and to fund the defeat of these politicians and their horrible behavior by using the resources available through the entertainment industry.”
Another item on the checklist: Conservative commentator Erick Erickson says there’s something else Republicans need to do ahead of the 2020 election to maintain their dominance in Georgia: get rid of state House Speaker David Ralston.
The talk show host on News 95.5 and AM 750 WSB has never been a fan of the speaker, but his latest comments involve a series of Atlanta Journal-Constitution stories that found that Ralston had used his role as a legislator to get judges to delay trials for some clients, including those charged with criminal offenses.
“The Republicans have only maintained their hold on the Georgia House by a handful of seats,” Erickson told The Macon Telegraph. “Whoever wins in 2020 will control drawing the lines for state legislative and congressional districts for the next decade.”
Ten Republican members of the state House have called for the speaker’s removal, far short of what would be needed to take the gavel out of Ralston’s hands. If Republicans don’t do better than that, it could make for some rough campaign ads, Erickson said.
“Do the Republicans want to gamble on the ads with victims? What about the victim who, at 14, had to perform indecent acts on an older man? What about the woman who was beaten by her boyfriend whose case went on for years as her memory went foggy?
“These are the stories that penetrate an oversaturated media market,” Erickson said. “These are the stories that provide compelling news stories.”
Not so friendly fire: Carolyn Meadows, the Marietta woman who became president of the National Rifle Association when Oliver North was ousted, is now facing her own controversy.
Former Florida U.S. Rep. Allen West, an NRA board member, has accused Meadows of lying to the media when she said the organization’s board was aware of revelations reported by The Wall Street Journal. They included a report that NRA chief executive Wayne LaPierre expensed tens of thousands of dollars worth of designer clothing from a Beverly Hills boutique (part of nearly $275,000 LaPierre charged to the organization’s advertising firm, Ackerman McQueen, between 2004 and 2017).
West said such statements by Meadows and NRA Audit Committee Chairman Charles Cotton “have maliciously, recklessly and purposefully put me, and uninformed board members, in legal jeopardy.”