In Georgia, Biden’s Coalition Has Frayed Since His Narrow Win In 2020 | Old North State Wealth News
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In Georgia, Biden’s coalition has frayed since his narrow win in 2020



Four years ago, Rev. James Woodall was driven to mobilize new, first-time voters to back Joe Biden during a summer of unrest sparked by COVID-19 fears and racial justice protests after George Floyd was killed by police.

Woodall was at the time the president of the Georgia NAACP, and he was hopeful that working to defeat then-President Donald Trump would lead to changes in policing and criminal justice.

But this year, Woodall, now 30, said he is unsure if he’ll cast a ballot for Biden in November.

“There’s no way in hell I’m voting for Trump,” he said. “But I don’t know if I can actually, with good conscience, vote for Joe Biden. I just don’t know.”

Rev. James Woodall says he won't vote for former President Donald Trump — but he's disappointed in President Biden and may not be able to vote for him, either.

This is one of many warning signs for Biden’s campaign in a state he won by a thin sliver of votes in 2020, backed by support from a multi-racial, ideologically diverse coalition — progressives, moderates, black voters, Asian-Americans, Latinos, white women in the suburbs, and disaffected former Republicans – united in opposition to Trump.

In 2024, Biden is the incumbent with a record of his own, making it harder for him to cast the election as a referendum on Trump.

“Four years later, the issues still remain,” Woodall said, referring to the lack of legislation on voting rights and policing. “In fact, some of them have exacerbated to crisis conditions.”

There are cracks in Biden’s coalition: disappointment with how the president has handled everything from inflation to immigration. For Woodall, his main reservation is the war in Gaza – the graphic images he sees on social media of starving children, and his belief that Biden has the power to stop the war, if he had the will.

LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, says she's worried the Biden campaign does not have enough resources on the ground for 2024.

2020 was a very different year than 2024

Georgia had been a reliable Republican state in presidential races until Biden flipped it in 2020. But the margin was slim – only 11,779 votes – and organizers and political experts agree that many factors aligned for Biden that year.

“What Democrats benefited from in 2020 was the zeitgeist of dissatisfaction with the Trump administration,” said Andra Gillespie, a political scientist at Emory University. “For Democrats to repeat that in 2024, when you have to take COVID off the table, you’re gonna have to run a perfect mobilization campaign.”

LaTosha Brown, co-founder of Black Voters Matter – a group that has been key in mobilizing Black voters across the South – said she is worried.

“It is not enough to say, ‘Oh, look at the threat of Trump,’ because what we’re hearing from voters on the ground – they’ve actually survived Trump,” she told NPR as she wrapped up a two-day meeting in Atlanta with more than a dozen other political organizers concerned about Black voter turnout. “I don’t think that there’s enough resources on the ground,” she said. “This is a moment that in many ways I think we need more resources than 2020, believe it or not, ’cause I think that there was a particular kind of movement momentum that existed in 2020 that does not exist right now in this year.”

The Biden campaign sees the cracks

The Biden campaign said it has begun building campaign infrastructure early to establish a presence across the state, opening 10 offices in Georgia by the end of May.

“We’ve got to organize. We’ve got to put offices on the ground. We’ve got to communicate, we have to make sure that we have a presence in the communities,” said Quentin Fulks, principal deputy campaign manager for Biden’s campaign.

Quentin Fulks managed the reelection campaign of Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., in 2022.

Fulks ran Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock’s successful reelection bid in 2022. In that race, Democrats turned out Black and Asian-American Democrats in metro Atlanta, while also managing to peel away some Republican votes.

“I think the big elephant in the room is the fact that we were able to get 9% of Republicans to vote for Sen. Warnock,” Fulks said in an interview. There’s a growing sense in Biden’s campaign that there are important lessons from 2022 that could be replicated in 2024 by persuading some Republicans who backed former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley in the primaries to vote for Biden this fall in the general election.

The campaign believes these are Republicans who don’t want to see Trump return to the White House and might be drawn to messages about democracy – people like former Republican Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who endorsed Biden earlier this month.

Martha Shockey with the progressive group Indivisible said concerns about reproductive rights has generated interest in Biden's reelection campaign.

Biden supporters are divided on some issues

For Biden, the challenge is not just persuading new voters, but also keeping the ones who voted for him last time inside the tent. And there seem to be competing forces at play. This is the first presidential election since the Supreme Court struck down abortion rights. Reproductive rights could be a huge motivating factor for voters, said Martha Shockey with the progressive group Indivisible.

“Every month that we meet, we have three to five more volunteers show up, which didn’t happen before actually,” she said.

But Biden could also lose voters this time around because of concerns about the economy and immigration. Blake Briese, 36, said he voted for Biden in 2020. He didn’t approve of how Trump was handling COVID at the time. He said he doesn’t blame Biden for inflation, but he does blame him for the disorder at the southern border.

“When you have another problem like we have at the border, but we’re sending billions of dollars [overseas], we can’t fix our problems, but we can fix everybody else’s, that’s a really tough message,” he said.

Blake Briese

The war in Gaza is also a big issue for Democrats

Historically, most Americans have not prioritized foreign policy issues in presidential elections. But in multiple interviews with young, progressive voters of color, Israel’s war in Gaza kept coming up as a factor feeding broader malaise with Biden, who has backed Israel.

Marisa Pyle, 26, said she worked full time on state-wide turnout campaigns in 2020. But this year, she’s thinking twice about voting for Biden. “I don’t know how I would vote if the election was held today because I am so scared of a Donald Trump presidency but I also want to be able to live with myself,” she said. She said she feels complicit in the deaths of thousands of civilians in Gaza because U.S. weapons are being used by the Israeli military.

Adrian Consonery says he has been shaken by images of civilian deaths in Gaza, and does not know whether he can support President Biden again.

Polls show a majority of young voters disapprove of how Biden has handled the war. And while only a small percentage say it’s their top priority, in a state Biden won by less than 12,000 votes, he can’t afford to lose very many.

“There is something so unsettling about seeing a child that is no longer breathing,” said Adrian Consonery, 24, who also is not yet committed to Biden. “I just – I need to feel comfortable. That is the only strategy at this [stage]. That is the only thing that’s gonna happen right now that’s gonna make it to where Trump don’t get elected – is if you make me comfortable with putting you into power.”

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