The Jolt: Stacey Abrams sticking with Joe Biden, despite Biden’s sagging approvals

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
01/04/2021 — Atlanta, Georgia — President-elect Joe Biden makes remarks during a campaign rally for U.S. Senate Democrat candidates Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in Atlanta’s Summerhill neighborhood, Monday, January 4, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

01/04/2021 — Atlanta, Georgia — President-elect Joe Biden makes remarks during a campaign rally for U.S. Senate Democrat candidates Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in Atlanta’s Summerhill neighborhood, Monday, January 4, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

President Joe Biden’s job approval rating nationally has sunk to 41% in Gallup’s national daily tracking poll. That’s a huge drop since Biden’s first day in office, at 57%, but still higher than Donald Trump’s last day, when he sank to 34%.

So is Stacey Abrams trying to distance herself from Biden and his deflating fortunes? Don’t bet on it.

The Democratic candidate for governor has repeatedly said she’ll take all the party help she can get to defeat Gov. Brian Kemp, including return visits from Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.

And in a Tuesday address, Biden made special mention of Abrams to a gathering of AFL-CIO members in Philadelphia.

“Help Stacey Abrams in Georgia. There’s three things I learned about early on: One, she’s loyal. Two, she’s capable. Three, she’s smarter than you. And me. She knows what she’s doing. So folks, please help her out.”

That’s welcome news to Kemp’s campaign, which has relentlessly tried to tie his flagging approval ratings to Abrams like an albatross.

“We’ll pitch in for gas,” Kemp spokesman Cody Hall snarked of a potential Biden visit.

Abrams isn’t the only Georgia Democrat staying close with the Biden administration. Axios reported Tuesday evening that former Atlanta mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms will serve as the director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. Sharing the news on Instagram, Bottoms wrote: #Honored.

Bottoms told Axios that she plans to spend most of her time in Washington, with her family staying in Atlanta.

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FAIR FIGHT? After a three-week hiatus, a voting rights case brought by Fair Fight Action picked up again this week in U.S. District Court in Atlanta. Lauren Groh-Wargo, Stacey Abrams’ campaign manager, was in the hot seat, the AJC’s Shannon McCaffrey reports.

The former Fair Fight chief executive was grilled about why she believed the results of the 2018 election – when Democrat Stacey Abrams lost -- were suspect, but those in 2020 – when Democrats prevailed – were not. After a legal back and forth, U.S. District Court Judge Steve Jones finally interjected.

“So, what you’re saying is when you lost it wasn’t a free election and when you won it was a free election?” Jones asked.

Groh-Wargo didn’t answer that question directly. She said, instead, that the 2018 election was the first time in years Georgia Democrats had come so close to winning and that reports of voting problems were pervasive.

But Josh Belinfante, lawyer for the Georgia Secretary of State’s office, suggested that, for Fair Fight, voter suppression allegations were a poll-tested way to raise money and energize Democrats. The case is close to wrapping up and will be decided by Jones in a bench trial.

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HEAR THIS. It’s time for the midweek edition of the Politically Georgia podcast, when we break down Stacey Abrams’ teacher pay raise plan, the Georgia-focused portions of Monday’s January 6th committee hearing, and the contentious primary runoff in the 10th Congressional District.

Listen at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or Stitcher.

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SECOND SON. The Daily Beast is out with an explosive report that Herschel Walker has a 10-year-old son whom he’s never discussed publicly.

Walker’s campaign confirmed the report. The child’s identity has not been revealed.

The report details the year-long court proceedings the child’s mother undertook to prove Walker’s paternity after a three-year relationship. He now pays child support, and, according to the Daily Beast, sends gifts at birthdays and Christmas, but does not spend time with the child.

The former football star speaks frequently about his 22-year-old son, Christian, and has been outspoken about absentee fathers, especially in the Black community. He is scheduled to be a marquee speaker this Saturday at the conservative Faith & Freedom conference.

Walker’s Senate rival, Sen. Raphael Warnock, has his own challenging family dynamics. In April, Warnock’s former wife accused him of being in “willful contempt” of their court-ordered custody agreement for their two small children. The senator requested that further legal proceedings be kept under seal. His spokeswoman has said Warnock is a “proud father” and co-parent.

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ON AGAIN. The Fulton County Special Grand Jury resumed its work hearing from witnesses Tuesday as it looks at possible election interference by former president Donald Trump, the AJC’s Tamar Hallerman and Ben Brasch report.

State Rep. Bee Nguyen, D-Atlanta, confirmed that she has received a subpoena to testify before the grand jury next week. Also expected in coming weeks are Attorney General Chris Carr, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, and multiple state lawmakers.

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POSTPONED. The U.S. House Committee investigating Jan. 6 has postponed its hearing scheduled for today, but is still planning a Thursday hearing that we’ll 100% be watching.

In a video to preview Thursday’s action, the committee posted a clip of testimony from Eric Herschmann, then a White House lawyer, recounting a Jan. 7, 2021, conversation with conservative attorney John Eastman.

Eastman aggressively spread false allegations of election fraud in Georgia in hopes of reversing the state’s 2020 results.

Herschmann told Eastman that he should instead focus on an “orderly transition” ahead of Joe Biden’s inauguration.

“Now I’m gonna give you the best free legal advice you’re ever getting in your life,” Herschmann recounts telling Eastman. “Get a great effing criminal defense lawyer. You’re gonna need it.”

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WE HAD TO ASK. One of the most shocking revelations during the Jan. 6 Committee’s first hearing was U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney’s assertion that multiple Republican members sought presidential pardons in the weeks after the deadly riot.

That led us to an obvious question: Did any of the six GOP lawmakers from Georgia who voted to reject Joe Biden’s electoral college votes in contested states ask for pardons?

We heard back from five. Representatives for Reps. Rick Allen, Buddy Carter, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Jody Hice and Barry Loudermilk all said that “no” they did not seek a pardon.

“Absolutely not!” Loudermilk, R-Cassville, said in a statement. “Even the idea that I may have done anything needing to ask for a pardon is ridiculous.”

The only member of the delegation that didn’t respond is Rep. Andrew Clyde, R-Athens.

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LOUDERMILK CLEARED. Speaking of Rep. Barry Loudermilk, U.S. Capitol Police have determined that he did nothing wrong when he joined a group of constituents touring the Capitol complex on Jan. 5.

Rumors swirled in the weeks after the Capitol attack that some members of Congress had shown sensitive areas of the building to rioters through Capitol tours.

But Capitol Police Chief J. Thomas Manger confirmed an investigation showed Loudermilk never entered the Capitol and never did anything suspicious.

“We train our officers on being alert for people conducting surveillance or reconnaissance, and we do not consider any of the activities we observed as suspicious,” Magner wrote.

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POLL WATCH. A new Georgia poll from Eastern Carolina University’s Center for Survey Research had mostly good news for Georgia’s GOP six months out from Election Day.

The survey of 868 registered voters showed Gov. Brian Kemp ahead of Stacey Abrams, 51% to 45%, while U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock and Herschel Walker were deadlocked at 47% each. The generic congressional ballot in Georgia put Republicans ahead 49% to 44%.

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STILL IN THE GAME. The Democratic National Committee recently told New York and Nebraska thanks but no thanks for applying to be an early-voting state in the 2024 cycle.

That leaves Georgia and 15 other states – along with Puerto Rico – in the next stage of a competition to overhaul a nominating process that has long been kicked off by Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina.

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TODAY IN WASHINGTON:

  • President Joe Biden is hosting a reception and delivering marks to mark Pride Month.
  • The U.S. House is scheduled to vote on a bill that would require the Federal Reserve to work to address racial and ethnic disparities in various economic indicators.
  • The U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee is holding a hearing on the impact of gun violence on children.

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FLOOR ACTION. The U.S. House has been busy with floor action this week, and here’s a recap of what happened on Tuesday:

  • The House, with the support of the entire Georgia delegation, voted to expand security protections to the families of U.S. Supreme Court justices. The bill now goes to President Joe Biden for his signature.
  • The House passed a sweeping wildlife conservation spending bill, 231-190, which NPR reports would affect species like Georgia’s famed red-cockaded woodpecker. Georgia’s delegation voted along party lines, with Republicans opposed.
  • U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson, R-West Point, introduced a bill to prevent the Biden administration from canceling most student loan debt. A portion of the bill reads, “It is unfair for taxpayers who paid student loans or did not attend college to pay for those who chose to take student loans.”

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D’OH! We told you yesterday about a seemingly clever fan of Gov. Brian Kemp’s, who bought the domain WorstStateToLiveIn.com, which then redirected people to Stacey Abrams’ website.

Several eagle-eyed readers let us know the Abrams campaign site is greeting visitors with a fundraising pop-up ad, which one reader said convinced him to donate a quick $25 to defeat Kemp.

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AS ALWAYS, Jolt readers are some of our favorite tipsters. Send your best scoop, gossip and insider info to patricia.murphy@ajc.com, tia.mitchell@ajc.com and greg.bluestein@ajc.com.

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