Trump aims for rural voters with Friday’s stop in Middle Georgia

President Donald Trump arrives for a campaign rally at Orlando Sanford International Airport, Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, in Sanford, Fla. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

Credit: Evan Vucci

Credit: Evan Vucci

President Donald Trump is aiming to run up the score with rural voters on Friday when he visits the Macon area, his second campaign rally in the state over the last month and the latest sign of a tightening battle for the White House in Georgia.

Trump will headline a 7 p.m. rally at Middle Georgia Regional Airport as polls show a deadlocked race with Democrat Joe Biden in a state Republicans haven’t lost in a presidential race since 1992.

His target audience is not Macon-Bibb County, which Hillary Clinton easily carried four years ago. It’s the surrounding rural areas where Trump and other Republicans have tallied huge margins in recent statewide elections.

As Democrats consolidate support in Atlanta’s vote-rich suburbs, Republicans are trying to wring out every vote they can to offset those losses. While Stacey Abrams dominated many suburban areas in 2018, Gov. Brian Kemp narrowly defeated her because he captured about 90% of rural Georgia.

Republicans acknowledge that’s not a formula for long-term success in Georgia. The densely populated urban and suburban areas where Democrats now dominate are growing at a faster pace than many stagnant rural areas. But GOP strategists hope that strategy is enough to hold court this year.

And it echoes a national approach for Trump, who last visited Georgia on Sept. 25. He is intensely targeting rural voters in other battlegrounds like Iowa and Florida, where he’s staging a fly-in rally in Ocala a few hours before his Georgia visit.

ExploreDemocrats prepare thorny welcome for Trump in Macon

Georgia Democrats, meanwhile, sense an opportunity to gain inroads in an area often overlooked. While much of the party’s focus has centered on the competitive battleground across Atlanta’s bedroom communities, the fight to woo rural white voters may pay dividends.

“Let’s say Democrats usually get 20% of the vote in places like where I grew up in Monroe County,” said Seth Clark, a Democratic commissioner-elect in Bibb County. “What happens if they get 22% in those places this time? Well, that’s the ballgame. If Biden improves marginally, he wins. That’s it.”

He’s among local Democrats who promoted a digital billboard that displays: “Trump COVID Superspreader Event” near the airport where thousands of Georgians will soon congregate to greet Trump’s speech.

“Trump’s not trying to just shore up rural Georgia. He’s trying to shore up rural America,” said Clark. “He’s bleeding, and if we make inroads in rural Georgia, it’s over.”

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