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Georgia Democrats try to rebuild the anti-Trump coalition that won in 2020

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President Biden won the state of Georgia in 2020 by a slim margin, less than 12,000 votes. He did it by stitching together a multiracial coalition that was united in its opposition to then-President Donald Trump. But four years later, some of those voters who helped Biden win Georgia are not convinced that they'll vote for him again. NPR White House correspondent Asma Khalid reports.

ASMA KHALID, BYLINE: LaTosha Brown was wrapping up a two-day meeting in Atlanta with more than a dozen other Black political organizers when I caught up with her. The meeting itself was a sign of just how much concern there is about Black voter turnout this fall.

LATOSHA BROWN: As organizers, we're stressed because six months is not a lot of time. And people aren't terribly excited about this election, so that creates a barrier for us.

KHALID: Brown co-founded Black Voters Matter. It's a group that has been key in mobilizing Black voters across the South. She says this election is different than four years ago during the pandemic and after the summer of racial justice protests.

BROWN: 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.

KHALID: Four years later, some voters, like 30-year-old James Woodall, are disappointed that Biden has not been able to pass major police reform or voting rights legislation.

JAMES WOODALL: Four years later, the issues still remain. In fact, some of them have exacerbated to crisis conditions.

KHALID: Woodall is the former president of the Georgia NAACP. And he's frustrated with how Biden has handled the war in Gaza.

WOODALL: There is no way in hell I'm voting for Trump. But I don't know if I can actually, with good conscience, vote for Joe Biden. I just don't know.

KHALID: And this is the larger issue for Biden, voters who might skip the top of the ticket or stay home. Andra Gillespie is a political scientist at Emory.

ANDRA GILLESPIE: What Democrats benefited from in 2020 was the zeitgeist of dissatisfaction with the Trump administration. For Democrats to repeat that in 2024, when you have to take COVID off the table, you're going to have to run a perfect mobilization campaign.

KHALID: One of the main people in charge of that mobilization is Quentin Fulks. He's the deputy campaign manager for Biden's reelection bid, and Georgia is his home state.

QUENTIN FULKS: 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. I think relentlessly organize is a big piece of it.

KHALID: They've started early. By the end of this month, the Biden campaign says it'll have 10 offices open across Georgia. Fulks ran the successful reelection bid for Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock, where they turned out Black and Asian American voters in metro Atlanta and also managed to peel away some Republicans.

FULKS: I think the big elephant in the room is the fact that we were able to get 9% of Republicans to vote for Senator Warnock.

KHALID: There's a growing sense in Biden's circles that some voters who chose Nikki Haley in the primaries could be persuaded to vote for Biden this fall. These are the suburbanites who don't want to see Trump return to the White House. For example, the former Republican lieutenant governor of Georgia endorsed Biden just this month.

But the challenge is also keeping the people around who voted for Biden last time, and there seem to be competing forces at play. This is the first presidential election since the Supreme Court struck down abortion rights. And Democrats, like Martha Shockey with the progressive group Indivisible, say this is a huge motivating issue.

MARTHA SHOCKEY: Every month that we meet, we have three to five more volunteers show up, which didn't happen before, actually.

KHALID: But then there are voters like Blake Briese.

BLAKE BRIESE: I'm leaning towards Donald Trump.

KHALID: Does that surprise you about yourself?

BRIESE: A little bit, a little bit.

KHALID: A little bit because he opted for Biden last time. He didn't think Trump was handling COVID well. This time, though, his big issue is the southern border.

BRIESE: When you have another problem like we have at the border but we're sending billions of dollars - we can't fix our problems, but we can fix everybody else's. That's a really tough message.

KHALID: Between immigration, inflation and the war in the Middle East, Biden is fighting a different fight than he did in 2020. Ghada Elnajjar was part of a group of Arab Americans who worked to elect Biden at that time. She says more than 80 relatives in Gaza have been killed since the war began.

GHADA ELNAJJAR: It's frightening for me to think that I somehow contributed by bringing this man to power. And I'll make every effort to make sure that he's never elected again.

KHALID: In a state where Biden won by less than 12,000 votes, he can't afford to lose very many. That may mean the coalition that brought him to the White House in 2020 might need to change a bit by bringing more disaffected anti-Trump voters into the tent. Asma Khalid, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Asma Khalid is a White House correspondent for NPR. She also co-hosts The NPR Politics Podcast.
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