DeSantis brings unofficial 2024 campaign to Georgia next week

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will bring his yet-to-be announced presidential campaign to Georgia next week when his book tour makes a stop in Cobb County.

The Republican’s scheduled visit Thursday to a suburban gun store is part of a media blitz that’s widely seen as a prelude to an official 2024 announcement expected within months.

DeSantis picked an area freighted with political symbolism for his visit. Cobb County was once an important Republican stronghold that transformed during the Donald Trump presidency into a Democratic bastion. Joe Biden carried the county by 14 points in 2020.

DeSantis has been ramping up his national appearances in recent weeks as he prepares a likely White House bid. He’s seen as the top threat to former President Donald Trump, who launched his comeback tour months ago but has yet to return to Georgia.

He has also increasingly honed his international policy, including walking back comments this week that framed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a “territorial dispute” after a torrent of criticism from potential rivals and Republican leaders.

Two other major GOP candidates have also entered the contest: Former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, who held fundraisers in Atlanta this week; and entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy.

Although Trump remains a frontrunner, dozens of elected officials and activists surveyed recently by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution say they’re reluctant to embrace his comeback bid and enthusiastic about an alternative.

Some say that Trump is irrevocably tainted by the ongoing criminal and civil investigations into his actions during and after his presidency — particularly the Fulton County probe into whether he and his allies illegally sought to reverse his narrow 2020 defeat.

With the nominating contests a year away, DeSantis was the top alternative state GOP leaders mentioned in texts, emails and phone interviews over a two-week span. Others floated former Vice President Mike Pence and Haley.

Gov. Brian Kemp, who defeated a Trump-backed challenger last year, is among the mainstream GOP leaders who have welcomed the wide-open primary.

Kemp, who has also taken steps to factor into the 2024 conversation, recently told the AJC he expects a contest “that showcases the successes of Republican governors and the work of other conservative leaders.”