Biden’s campaign launches first presidential ads in battleground Georgia

Joe Biden’s presidential campaign is launching a first wave of general election TV ads in Georgia as the Democrat steps up efforts to compete in a state Republicans have carried in every White House race since 1996.

Biden’s campaign announced in a Wednesday memo that it is reserving $220 million in television airtime and an additional $60 million in digital ads in Georgia and 14 other competitive states. They include Arizona and Texas, also traditionally Republican states where President Donald Trump is struggling in the polls.

The new ads feature the Democrat speaking directly to the camera about Trump’s response to the coronavirus pandemic and the economic fallout of the crisis, part of an overall strategy to energize supporters and win over independent and moderate voters who backed the president four years ago.

Recent polls in Georgia show a razor-thin race between Trump and Biden in the state, and some raise troubling issues for the president’s campaign. A CBS News/YouGov poll of Georgians released this week showed his support among white voters, Trump’s most reliable pillar of support, is eroding.

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The former vice president’s campaign has only recently stepped up its investment in Georgia. It unveiled its senior leadership team in Georgia last week, a group that includes veteran strategists Tracey Lewis and Tharon Johnson.

“It would be a hell of a win,” Biden said at a virtual fundraiser Wednesday featuring Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and other prominent Georgia Democrats. “But if we come close in Georgia, we probably will help elect a couple Democratic senators. We elect a congressman. We elect up and down the line. And we have to build our bench.”

Democrats haven’t won a statewide election in Georgia since 2008, though the margins have grown steadily tighter. Fueled by gains across metro Atlanta’s suburbs, Democrats flipped a long-held Republican congressional seat in 2018, won more than a dozen Republican-held state legislative seats and forced two statewide races into runoffs.

This year, emboldened Democrats warn it would be “political malpractice” to sideline Georgia, with two U.S. Senate seats on the ballot, a couple of competitive U.S. House seats up for grabs and a chance to defeat Trump, who carried the state by 5 percentage points in 2016.

The tight polls have forced Trump to start airing ads in Georgia over the summer, and earlier this week his campaign released a new wave of ads to run in Georgia and three other states he carried in 2016.

And Republican-aligned groups have already devoted more than $25 million for TV campaigns backing GOP candidates for Georgia’s two U.S. Senate seats through the fall.

Trump’s Georgia operation said it’s not panicking but being prudent. Campaign aides say the Georgia operation boasts more than 100 staffers and thousands of volunteers who have knocked on a quarter-million doors over the past few months. And the president has visited Atlanta several times this year, most recently a July trip to a UPS facility.

In an interview, Trump campaign manager Bill Stepien said one of the first conversations he had when he joined the president’s campaign as an aide in 2016 was with a Republican nervous that the party would lose Georgia for the first time in decades. Trump wound up capturing the state with little investment.

“We feel confident in our campaign there,” Stepien said. “There are other candidates on the ballot in Georgia, and we want to make sure we bring them across the finish line with us. I invite the Democrats to spend — and spend heavily — in Georgia.”

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