The Jolt: Biden’s policies are popular in Georgia — even if he isn’t

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

President Joe Biden’s approval ratings in Georgia remain mired underwater in the latest Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll. But some of his most significant policies are widely popular among likely Georgia voters.

While Biden’s approval sits at just 37%, a majority of voters said they backed his plan to cancel as much as $20,000 in college student debt for many Americans.

And 52% support the recently passed federal tax and health care measure that aims to combat climate change and lower the cost of prescription drugs while adding a minimum tax for large corporations.

How do Biden’s skeptics reconcile their support for his key policies but opposition to his presidency? Gary Norwood acknowledges his stance is a head-scratcher.

“That’s a really good question,” said Norwood, an electrical engineer from Bartow County with a son at the University of Georgia.

He was among the nearly 60% of Georgians who disapprove of President Joe Biden’s job performance, but he likes the student debt relief plan.

“I’m really not a fan of Biden. He’s skirted the issues on a number of levels. But the student debt plan makes a big deal to working class people. I have a son in college and this type of relief would make a difference to our family.”

It’s the latest in a string of polls that show Biden with serious troubles among voters in a state that he captured less than two years ago. And as they have throughout the campaign, Republicans will continue to tie leading Democrats to Biden like an anchor.

U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock has kept his distance from Biden amid a tough matchup against Republican Herschel Walker, often refusing to say whether he’d campaign with the president.

But Stacey Abrams has taken a different approach, unequivocally embracing Biden and his agenda and touting his policies as generational game-changers.

As Republicans fret about a potential return visit by Donald Trump, Abrams again made clear on Monday that she would campaign with Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris in Georgia.

“There is no reticence on my part,” Abrams said at an event late Monday hosted by the nonprofit news organization The 19th at Buckhead Theater.


FARM-TO-TELEVISION. One race that the AJC didn’t poll was the contest for agriculture commissioner between Republican state Sen. Tyler Harper and Democrat Nakita Hemingway.

Harper, a wealthy Ocilla farmer and businessman, is favored to win the down-ballot race but is leaving little to chance. He unveiled a series of TV, digital and radio ads on Wednesday backed by a seven-figure ad buy.


RAFFEN TIME. Meet Time magazine’s newest cover star: Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who is featured among “The Defenders” — namely election officials who refused pressure from Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the 2020 election.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is featured on a new Time magazine cover. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Credit: Jason Getz

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Credit: Jason Getz

The Charlotte Alter article praises Raffensperger as one of six election leaders nationwide working to save American democracy, “a loose brigade of unassuming public servants on the front lines of the fight to protect America’s election system from the Trump allies out to disrupt it.”

Raffensperger’s prominence isn’t welcome news to Democratic state Rep. Bee Nguyen, who has worked assiduously to paint the secretary of state as an enemy of Georgia voters, but still trails the Republican by nearly 20 points in the AJC poll.


BIG MONEY. A powerful super PAC aligned with Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell has scrapped almost $10 million worth of ads in Arizona, where Republican Blake Masters trails Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly in polls.

In contrast, McConnell and other GOP groups are increasingly devoting resources to Herschel Walker’s campaign against U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock.

McConnell’s Senate Leadership Fund reported this week that it’s pumping $3.25 million more into backing Walker’s campaign. And McConnell is hosting a Thursday fundraiser for Walker in Washington, Punchbowl News reported.

And the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which sees the race as perhaps its best opportunity to flip a seat, is pouring in more resources to oust Democratic U.S Sen. Raphael Warnock.

The group, chaired by Florida’s U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, filed paperwork this week indicating it will spend at least another roughly $1.5 million on ads here.


UNCOUNTED DEATHS. Belinda Maley, whose son died of congestive heart failure in 2014 while being detained by the Chatham County Sheriff’s office, told senators Tuesday that she blames his death on the lack of care from the jail’s private health provider.

“Matthew was never given any treatment,” she said. “The for-profit medical provider had no intention of treating him because cardiology appointments outside of the jail would come into their profit margin.”

Maley was on Capitol Hill to testify before the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, which is chaired by U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff.

The subcommittee released a report this week that found that nearly 1,000 deaths in American jails and prisons went uncounted by the Department of Justice last year, despite a federal law that requires reporting.

After the hearing, Ossoff said that accurate counts are needed so that the public and the DOJ can monitor and address issues within the criminal justice system that have left mothers like Maley grieving.

“That’s so important because this isn’t about statistics; this isn’t about data,” he said. “This is about human lives, people who are preventably dying (and) whose civil rights are being violated.”


Gov. Brian Kemp faces Stacey Abrams and Herschel Walker faces Sen. Rafael Warnock in high-profile races in November. (AJC file photos)

Credit: Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Credit: Atlanta Journal-Constitution

MARIST POLL. A new poll conducted by Marist Institute for Public Opinion of 1,202 Georgia voters shows 47% plan to vote for U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock compared to 42% for Republican Herschel Walker.

That result, which shows Warnock with a lead outside of the margin of error, is more favorable to the Democratic incumbent than the AJC’s latest poll, also released this week, which shows Walker and Warnock in a dead heat.

The Marist survey also shows Gov. Brian Kemp with a 50% to 44% advantage in his matchup against Stacey Abrams, which is similar to the AJC poll result.

While the AJC poll was conducted through live calls with a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3.3%, the Marist poll included live calls, text, and online components. Its reported margin of error is plus-or-minus 4%.


The U.S. Capitol building in Washington, D.C. (Kenny Holston/The New York Times)

Credit: Kenny Holston

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Credit: Kenny Holston


  • President Joe Biden will deliver remarks in New York at the United Nations General Assembly.
  • The U.S. Senate has scheduled a vote on a bill that would require political organizations to disclose more information about donors.
  • The House will consider legislation from U.S. Reps. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., and Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., to amend the 1887 Electoral Count Act. The bill is a response to the mayhem on Jan. 6, and would make it clear that the vice president’s role in counting electoral votes is purely ceremonial.


Data shows that Georgians collectively had the third highest level of student loan debt in the country, with only Maryland and the District of Columbia ranking higher. (Dreamstime/TNS)

Credit: TNS

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Credit: TNS

STUDENT DEBT RELIEF. Of the 1.5 million Georgians who are expected to be eligible to have their student loans forgiven, nearly 70% were recipients of need-based Pell grants, according to data released by the White House on Tuesday.

That means the majority of the people in Georgia who are eligible for student loan relief will also qualify for the higher level of forgiveness — $20,000 — which is targeted to lower-income recipients.

The AJC’s Nimra Ahmad wrote that data shows that Georgians collectively had the third highest level of student loan debt in the country, behind borrowers in Maryland and the District of Columbia. The average Georgia borrower owes about $42,000.

Starting next month, those with student debt will be able to apply online for loan forgiveness. Federal loan repayments are scheduled to resume Jan. 1 after a long pause during the coronavirus pandemic.


NEW BISHOP AD. The Democratic Party’s campaign arm for House races has released an ad in support of U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop’s reelection.

Titled “Imagine,” it accuses Republican challenger Chris West of being bankrolled by GOP lawmakers who “want to end Social Security and Medicare as we know it.”

A spokesman for West said the Republican has never discussed Social Security on the campaign trail. And he pointed out that West won the GOP primary after D.C. heavyweights, such as U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley and strategist Karl Rove, endorsed his opponent. Outside super PACs also flooded the race with $2.5 million against West, who raised about $200,000 for the primary.

Now backed by Washington Republicans, West’s race to unseat Bishop in the 2nd Congressional District is Georgia’s only competitive congressional race, although prognosticators have recently given the advantage to Bishop.

The ad is the first in the race financed by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and is airing in the Albany, Columbus and Macon media markets.


MARK YOUR CALENDARS. The U.S. House committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol riot has scheduled its next, and likely final, meeting for Sept. 28 at 1 p.m.

Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Mississippi, told reporters that the hearing will have a theme like the previous others, but he did not elaborate on what that will be.


ROLLING RIVIAN. A lengthy piece in the Wall Street Journal details EV carmaker Rivian’s nationwide lobbying strategy to open direct-to-consumer sales for its trucks and SUVs, even in states like Georgia where car dealers’ power is legendary.

The piece profiles Jim Chen, the cowboy-boot wearing chief lobbyist for the company. Chen says he ran into a roadblock to his streamlined sales strategy in Georgia, namely Honda dealer and state Sen. Pro Tem Butch Miller, despite Rivian’s splashy announcement that it will build a $5 billion plant here. From the piece:

“We met for close to two hours, and I thought we were getting along very, very well," Mr. Chen said. “We talked about boots; we talked about fishing; we talked about cars. I let him know that I wasn't here as his enemy."

But legislation never made it to a vote on the floor of the state legislature this year. Mr. Chen attributes that to Mr. Miller. “He, as the lead in the senate, stopped our bill." Mr. Miller denies that, saying he recused himself from the process and that local dealers pressured senators who sponsored the legislation.

“I haven't lobbied on the bill and I have had no involvement with the bill," Mr. Miller said. He added that “Rivian knew what the score was in Georgia before they started looking into a plant here…. why should 11 million Georgians change the way they're doing business to accommodate one individual?"

- The Wall Street Journal


NATIONAL PARK PROGRESS. Middle Georgia boosters of the effort to create Georgia’s first National Park and Preserve got a major boost this weekend when Interior Secretary Deb Haaland visited the Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park in Macon. Haaland is the first American Indian to serve in the post. From the Associated Press report:

Efforts to expand an existing historical park at the mounds site are in keeping with Interior Secretary Deb Haaland's “Tribal Homelands Initiative," which supports fundraising to buy land and requires federal managers to seek out indigenous knowledge about resources.

“This kind of land acquisition represents the best of what our conservation efforts should look like: collaborative, inclusive, locally led, and in support of the priorities of our country's tribal nations," Haaland said at last weekend's 30th Annual Ocmulgee Indigenous Celebration.

In an era when some culture warriors see government as the enemy, years of coalition-building have eliminated any significant opposition to federal management in the reliably Republican center of a long-red state. Hunting will still be allowed, even encouraged to keep feral hogs from destroying the ecosystem. Georgia's congressional delegation is on board, and the Muscogee (Creek) Nation has been welcomed as an essential partner.

- Associated Press


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