‘Georgia is the reason I’m president right now’

At Atlanta fundraiser, President Biden tells supporters that Georgia shows the “power of the vote”

President Biden reminded Georgia supporters at a fundraiser at the Arthur M. Blank Family Office Saturday afternoon of just how important the state is to his reelection bid.

“If you ever doubt the power of the vote, I say come to Georgia. You are the reason I won. Georgia is the reason I’m President right now,” Biden told the gathering in Buckhead.

On the eve of his highly anticipated commencement address at Morehouse College on Sunday, Biden arrived in Atlanta a day early to hopefully calm some nerves, shake some hands, reassure Black voters and raise money.

Before rushing to Buckhead for the Blank fundraiser, Biden stopped by the iconic Mary Mac’s Tea Room to meet with voters.

“You all brung me to the dance,” Biden told the crowd. “You really made a gigantic difference. “It’s easy to forget, but I don’t forget.”

Biden won Georgia in 2020 but faces a much more difficult climate this year in his rematch against former President Donald Trump.

Biden has tried to rebuild the coalition of liberals, Black Georgians and more moderate voters that fueled his narrow 2020 victory, but he’s faced challenges rekindling enthusiasm.

Recent polls show Biden losing traction among Black voters, including a New York Times/Siena poll of Georgia voters recently released that showed about 20% of Black respondents are leaning toward Trump in a head-to-head matchup in November.

Morehouse students and alumni have urged school officials to rescind his invitation to speak because of Biden’s handling of the war in Gaza. Some have threatened protests.

A student walks by a Morehouse College sign in Atlanta on April 24, 2024. (Miguel Martinez/AJC)

Credit: Miguel Martinez/AJC

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Credit: Miguel Martinez/AJC

This week, the faculty barely passed a measure to award Biden an honorary degree.

But when he arrived in Atlanta, he was greeted by a team of elected officials who had attended Morehouse, led by U.S. Sen Raphael Warnock, a 1991 graduate of the country’s only HBCU for Black men.

Biden also was greeted by U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, U.S. Rep Nikema Williams, U.S. Rep Sanford Bishop and Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens.

Against all of that, in the starkest of terms, Biden said that his rematch against Trump is about protecting democracy, specifically from the former president.

“The threat Trump poses is greater in a second term than it was in the first term. It’s clear that when he lost in 2020, something snapped, I’m being serious,” Biden said. “He just can’t accept the fact he lost. That is why Jan. 6 happened. Every legal avenue Trump tried to change the election failed. So he unleashed an insurrection. He sat there for three hours, watching what was happening, not saying a word.”

Arthur Blank, the co-founder of Home Depot and the owner of the Atlanta Falcons, joked that he is the “same age” as the president, a dig at critics who argue that Biden is too old to seek a second term.

Blank told the guests that Biden reminds him of his late friend John Lewis.

“I believe President Biden carries the same heart for humanity as my dear friend John, the same values, same passions,” Blank said.

Earlier, at his first stop at Mary Mac’s, which had recently been closed after the roof collapsed during a rainstorm, Biden spoke for about 10 minutes to a group of more than 50 or so pre-assembled Democrats.

Biden, who visited Mary Mac’s in 2015 as the Vice President, is not the first politician to grace the Midtown establishment, which has hosted the likes of President Jimmy Carter, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Congressman John Lewis, as well as the Dalai Lama, James Brown and Beyoncé.

Reading the room, he joked that he was surrounded by Morehouse Men, ribbing them on the fact that he got his political start on the campus of Delaware State University when he announced his bid for the senate there in 1972 and that Vice President Kamala Harris is also an HBCU graduate from Howard University.

Two-time gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams was at the first table he greeted.

Abrams, a powerful Democrat, stood to give Biden a curtsy before the two embraced.

Biden also met with members of the Morehouse community including Kerry Singleton and Cecil Price III, who will each be graduating on Sunday.

Alfred “Shivy” Brooks, a member of the Atlanta Board of Education and the first active teacher elected to the school board in 150 years, as well as U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop, celebrity influencer couple Devale and Khadeen Ellis, also met with Biden after they enjoyed some Mary Mac’s food and a performance by Grammy-nominated DJ Willy Wow.

Biden thanked the Democrats in the room and said it was because of them that he won in 2020 and that Georgia now has two U.S. senators — Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.

Quickly recapping his first term, Biden told the crowd that the administration “got everything done.”

“Because of you,” Biden said. “And we’re going to do a lot more. I really appreciate you giving me the opportunity to do this again. I really mean it. We got a tight operation, and we are going to do well.”

He warned that Republicans want to erase everything he’s done in office so far and said that having Trump on the ballot again means democracy itself is in danger.

“This election, there is a lot at stake,” Biden said. “It is not about me, it’s about the alternative as well.”

Mentioning his presumed Republican opponent, Biden said “Democracy is really on the line, and that Donald Trump wants to undo everything he has done, from climate change legislation to allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices.

“My opponent is not a good loser,” Biden said. “But he is a loser.”

At the end of his remarks at Mary Mac’s, Biden said he didn’t want to speak too long and wanted to come around and speak with each person individually.

Republicans down in Columbus at the state GOP convention were less enthusiastic about Biden being in the Peach State.

Several referred to polls showing his slipping support among Black voters and backlash over his handling of Israel’s war with Hamas.

“America’s allies are hurting and our president and our Democratic senators are not standing up for them,” said former U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler. “Yet every blue-haired they/them on campus who gets thrown in jail is immediately bailed out.”

Former U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler speaks at the Georgia GOP Convention at the Columbus Convention & Trade Center in Columbus on Friday, May 17, 2024. (Arvin Temkar / AJC)

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

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Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

“This state is the firewall to Washington and President Trump cannot win the country without winning Georgia,” said Loeffler. “So all of our work is incredibly important.”

Speaking about Republicans, Biden said he hopes to gain their support in November as well. He noted the thousands of votes Nikki Haley got against Trump even after she dropped out of the race.

He also brought up Georgia’s former Republican lieutenant governor Geoff Duncan, who recently said he’ll be voting for the president.

“There is always going to be a place for Haley voters in my campaign,” Biden said. “We also welcome Lt. Gov. Duncan’s support as well.”

Stay with AJC.com for updates on Biden’s visit.