Georgia GOP convention to briefly be ‘center’ of Republican universe

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

A growing cast of White House wannabes plans to attend the Georgia GOP convention next week in Columbus, transforming a two-day event snubbed by many top state officials into a pivotal presidential pit stop.

The list of speakers is headlined by former President Donald Trump, who will return June 10 to Georgia — the backdrop of several of his most stinging electoral rebukes — for his first campaign event since the launch of his comeback bid.

Trump’s onetime No. 2, Mike Pence, will address state party delegates at the Columbus Convention and Trade Center on June 9. The former vice president is inching toward a likely run for the nation’s top job.

Ex-Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and business executive Vivek Ramaswamy also plan to speak at the convention. Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley is holding a fundraiser in Atlanta a few days before the convention.

And state Republicans are buzzing about a potential visit to Georgia next week by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, perhaps Trump’s most formidable GOP rival.

It’s Trump, though, who is poised to generate the most attention. His outspoken attempts to overturn his narrow defeat in Georgia three years ago are now at the center of a Fulton County criminal probe.

And his failed campaign to oust Gov. Brian Kemp and other GOP incumbents during the 2022 midterms has left fissures among state Republicans that are poised to shape the 2024 race in Georgia.

Kemp and his allies, meanwhile, are trying to direct the party away from the former president — and a state GOP apparatus that shelters a core of increasingly hard-line pro-Trump activists. The governor and several other statewide officials plan to skip the convention.

Still, the convention’s sudden popularity among presidential aspirants has made it harder for others to bypass. Several rank-and-file GOP officials who once planned to boycott the convention are now making plans to be there.

Georgia GOP Chair David Shafer, who isn’t seeking another term as head of the state party, has relished the event’s growing significance.

“For a brief moment, Columbus, Georgia, will be the center of the political universe,” he told News 95.5 and AM 750 WSB’s Shelley Wynter.