ATLANTA (CN) — With polls showing Georgia has a shot of voting for a Democratic presidential candidate for the first time since 1992, Joe Biden visited the Peach State on Tuesday for a pair of rallies to fire up voters a week before Election Day.
Before an evening event in Atlanta, the former vice president first spoke at a rally in Warm Springs, a rural town 72 miles outside of Atlanta, where President Franklin D. Roosevelt often stayed at his 2,000-acre resort as he suffered from polio. The town is located in Meriwether County, where 56% of residents voted for President Donald Trump in 2016.
“To [Roosevelt], and so many others facing physical challenges, Warm Springs offered therapy for the body and for the soul,” Biden told supporters at the Mountain Top Inn & Resort.
Biden spoke for about 20 minutes, addressing the division and lack of civility in the country under the Trump administration.
“I believe this election is about who we are as a nation,” he said. “I run to unite this nation and heal this nation.”
Biden criticized Trump for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic, pointing out the president said “it is what it is” when talking about the crisis earlier this year.
“Well, it is what it is because of who he is,” the Democratic candidate said. “In the spring the president declared that as commander in chief he was going to wage war on the virus. Instead, he’s shrugged. He’s swaggered. And he’s surrendered.”
He also spoke about racism and police killings of unarmed black people that sparked nationwide protests this summer, proclaiming “the names of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and Jacob Blake will not soon be forgotten.”
“They’re going to inspire a new wave of justice in America,” he said.
Biden said on day one of his presidency, he would act to “get Covid-19 under control” and pass his economic, health care and climate plans.
Biden’s stop in Georgia, which awards 16 Electoral College votes, is the first from a Democratic presidential candidate during a general election in 24 years, the last being Bill Clinton in 1996.
“I’m running as a proud Democrat, but I will govern as an American president,” he said. “I’ll work with Democrats and Republicans. I’ll work as hard for those who don’t support me as for those who do. That’s the job of a president. A duty of care for everyone.”
Biden is also scheduled to speak at a drive-in rally in Atlanta Tuesday evening.
An Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll released Monday showed Biden narrowly leading Trump 47% to 46%. Trump, who won Georgia by 5 percentage points in 2016, scheduled campaign stops in the swing states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Nevada on Tuesday.
The poll also showed Democratic Senate candidate Jon Ossoff leading incumbent Republican Senator David Perdue 46% to 45%. Ossoff and Biden’s leads are within the poll’s 4-point margin of error.
Before Biden’s Warm Springs rally, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, a Republican, headlined a “MAGA Meet-Up” event in nearby Manchester along with Republican Congressman Drew Ferguson and Georgia GOP Chairman David Shafer.
Kemp said he was “not really sure why” Biden came to Georgia.
“I can only speculate that he was needing some good barbecue and southern hospitality,” he said, adding that Biden “wants to undo all the progress we’ve made.”
Kemp went on to say that “a vote for Biden is a vote for Obama 2.0,” drawing boos from those in attendance. The crowd then cheered when Kemp told them not to believe the polls showing a tough race for Trump in Georgia and nationwide.
For 30-year-old Atlanta paralegal Laynie Hails, who voted at the city’s State Farm Arena, sitting out this election was “not an option.”
“I appreciate my right to vote and that is the most tangible way to create change,” she said.
Hails, who voted Democrat up and down the ballot, said the issues most important to her are social justice and equality, climate protections, health care and education.
Zachary Shindell also cast his ballot at State Farm Arena. The 33-year-old, who also voted for Biden, said it was especially important for him to vote in this election.
“The issues most important to me are Covid-19 response, Supreme Court appointments and environmental issues,” he said.
Read the Top 8
Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.