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At Atlanta fundraiser, President Biden says Georgia demonstrates ‘power of the vote’

Before rushing to Buckhead for the Blank fundraiser, Biden stopped at the iconic Mary Mac’s Tea Room to meet voters.

President Joe Biden, right, touches the forehead of a supporter during a campaign stop at Mary Mac's Tea Room, Saturday, May 18, 2024, in Atlanta.  (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

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“You all brought me to the ball,” Biden told the crowd. “You really made a huge difference. “It’s easy to forget, but I don’t forget.”

Biden won Georgia in 2020 but faces a much tougher climate this year in his rematch against former President Donald Trump.

Biden has tried to rebuild the coalition of liberals, black Georgians and more moderate voters that fueled his narrow 2020 victory, but he has faced challenges that are reigniting enthusiasm.

Recent polls show Biden losing ground among black voters, including a recently released New York Times/Siena poll of Georgia voters that showed about 20 percent of black respondents leaning toward Trump in a head-to-head race. -face in November.

Morehouse students and alumni urged school officials to rescind his invitation to speak because of Biden’s handling of the war in Gaza. Some threatened to demonstrate.

A student walks past a Morehouse College sign in Atlanta on April 24, 2024. (Miguel Martinez/AJC)

Credit: Miguel Martinez/AJC

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Credit: Miguel Martinez/AJC

This week, the faculty barely passed a measure to award Biden an honorary degree.

But upon his arrival in Atlanta, he was greeted by a team of elected officials who had attended Morehouse, led by U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, a 1991 graduate of the nation’s only HBCU for black men.

Biden was also greeted by U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams, U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop and Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens.

President Joe Biden, second from right, is greeted by Morehouse College alumni, including Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., from left, Marlon Kimpson, a member of the Advisory Committee for Trade Policy and Negotiations at the U.S. Commerce Bureau.  Rep. and Rep. Sanford Bishop, D-Ga., upon arrival at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Saturday, May 18, 2024, in Atlanta.  (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

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Against all this, in the bluntest terms, Biden said his revenge against Trump was about protecting democracy, especially against the former president.

“The threat Trump poses is greater in a second term than in the first term. Clearly when he lost in 2020 something broke, I’m serious,” Biden said. “He just can’t accept the fact that he lost. This is why January 6 happened. Every legal avenue Trump has tried to change the election has failed. So he started an insurrection. He sat there for three hours, watching what was happening, without saying a word. »

Arthur Blank, co-founder of Home Depot and owner of the Atlanta Falcons, joked that he was the “same age” as the president, a jab at critics who argue Biden is too old to run for a second term .

Blank told guests that Biden reminded him of his late friend John Lewis.

“I believe President Biden carries the same heart for humanity as my dear friend John, the same values, the same passions,” Blank said.

Earlier, during his first stop at Mary Mac’s, which had recently been closed after the roof collapsed during a rainstorm, Biden spoke for about 10 minutes to a pre-assembled group of more than 50 Democrats.

Biden, who visited Mary Mac’s in 2015 as vice president, is not the first politician to honor the Midtown establishment, which has hosted the likes of President Jimmy Carter, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Congressman John Lewis, as well as the Dalai Lama, James Brown and Beyoncé.

President Joe Biden, right, greets a young girl as he speaks to supporters at Mary Mac's Tea Room, Saturday, May 18, 2024, in Atlanta.  (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

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Reading the room, he joked that he was surrounded by Morehouse Men, teasing them that he had made his political debut on the campus of Delaware State University when he announced there his Senate bid in 1972 and that Vice President Kamala Harris was also an HBCU graduate from Howard University.

Stacey Abrams, a two-time gubernatorial candidate, was at the first table he greeted.

Abrams, a powerful Democrat, stood to curtsy to Biden before the two embraced.

Biden also met with members of the Morehouse community, including Kerry Singleton and Cecil Price III, who will each graduate on Sunday.

Atlanta school board member Alfred “Shivy” Brooks, the first active teacher elected to the school board in 150 years, along with Congressman David Scott, Congresswoman Joyce Beatty and celebrity influencer couple Devale and Khadeen Ellis, also met Biden after enjoying food from Mary Mac and a performance by Grammy-nominated DJ Willy Wow.

Biden thanked the Democrats in the room and said it was because of them that he won in 2020 and that Georgia now had two U.S. senators: Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff.

President Joe Biden, center, speaks with supporters at Mary Mac's Tea Room, Saturday, May 18, 2024, in Atlanta.  (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

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Let’s quickly recap his first mandate, Biden told the crowd that the administration “did everything.”

“Because of you,” Biden said. “And we’re going to do so much more.” I really appreciate you giving me the opportunity to do this again. I really think so. We had a close operation and we’re going to do well.

He warned that Republicans want to erase everything he has done so far and said Trump’s presence on the ballot again means democracy itself is in danger.

“There’s a lot at stake in this election,” Biden said. “It’s not about me, it’s also about the alternative.”

Mentioning his presumptive Republican opponent, Biden said: “Democracy is really at stake and Donald Trump wants to undo everything he’s done, from climate change legislation to allowing Medicare to negotiate drug prices.”

President Joe Biden speaks with supporters at Mary Mac's Tea Room, Saturday, May 18, 2024, in Atlanta.  (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

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“My opponent is not a good loser,” Biden said. “But he’s a loser.”

At the end of his speech at Mary Mac’s, Biden said he didn’t want to speak for too long and wanted to come speak with each person individually.

Columbus Republicans at the state GOP convention were less enthusiastic about Biden being in the Peach State.

Several pointed to polls showing his declining support among black voters and backlash over his handling of the war between Israel and Hamas.

“America’s allies are hurting, and our Democratic president and senators are not standing up for them,” said former U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler. “Yet every blue-haired student on campus who is thrown into jail is immediately released on bail. »

Former U.S. Senator Kelly Loeffler speaks during the Georgia GOP convention at the Columbus Convention & Trade Center in Columbus, Friday, May 17, 2024. (Arvin Temkar/AJC)

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Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

“This state is a firewall for Washington and President Trump cannot win the country without winning Georgia,” Loeffler said. “So all of our work is extremely important. »

Speaking of Republicans, Biden said he hopes to gain their support in November as well. He pointed to the thousands of votes Nikki Haley received against Trump even after he dropped out of the race.

He also brought up former Georgia Republican Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who recently said he would vote for president.

“There will always be a place for Haley voters in my campaign,” Biden said. “We also appreciate Lt. Governor Duncan’s support.”

Stay with AJC.com for updates on Biden’s visit.

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