By Tom Baxter

So far, Joe Biden has been the most deliberative of the past several presidents, seldom making a move without carefully weighing its political implications. On the eve of his 100th day in office, the president and First Lady Jill Biden will travel to Atlanta for a rally Thursday. We can be sure the location was chosen carefully.

In part, Biden’s visit to Georgia is an acknowledgment that his biggest accomplishment, the passage of the $1.7 trillion American Rescue Plan, wouldn’t have been possible without the election of Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff to the U.S. Senate. This is Biden’s second visit to the state since he took office, and with a tough re-election campaign looming for Warnock two years down the road, we can expect to see more of him.

A visit to Georgia, in between Biden’s address to Congress Wednesday night and his 100th day in office on Friday, is also an opportunity to poke the bear. Georgia has become the Republican Party’s sore spot, where the scars from the last election remain most visible. Arizona’s legislature has now far surpassed anything envisioned in Georgia’s SB 202, ordering a recount of all the ballots from Maricopa County to be conducted by a Trump-friendly Florida firm called — you can’t make this stuff up — Cyber Ninjas.

Other red state legislatures are in the process of passing their own voting laws, but Georgia’s was the first. Georgia is also the state where former President Donald Trump has involved himself most directly in punishing those Republicans he blames for not supporting his effort to overturn Biden’s election.

At a rally in December, Trump all but invited former U.S. Rep. Doug Collins to challenge Gov. Brian Kemp in 2020, but Collins has declined the offer, announcing on Monday that he won’t be a candidate for any office in 2022. There will be other Trump Republicans who’ll be happy to jump into the 2022 primaries, but Collins’ announcement underscores just how toxic Republican politics in the state has become. Collins is raw-knuckled and ambitious — he said in his announcement Monday this was “goodbye for now, but probably not forever” — but after a long look at the next election cycle, he decided to pass.

Biden’s favorable rating in at least three polls released this week is lower than the 100-day polling numbers for George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and higher than Trump at this point. Given the fraught nature of his presidential honeymoon, however, Biden’s numbers are probably the most impressive, especially when you consider that half the Republicans polled said they don’t believe he was fairly elected. The very high approval — high enough to include a lot of Trump voters — for his handling of vaccine distribution and the pandemic is especially noteworthy.

Throughout his career, Biden has enjoyed the advantage of being underestimated. Attempts to portray him as a doddering tool of younger and more left-wing Democrats have been especially ineffective during these early days of his presidency, as Biden has proven to be very articulate in outlining his goals, and bold as well. He’s the first Democratic president since LBJ to unabashedly embrace expanding the role of government in American life.

His auspicious beginning aside, Biden faces political problems more intractable than anything Trump might still be able to stir up. The U.S. Census Bureau sent the president the population counts that will be used to reapportion Congress and the Electoral College. If all states voted the same way in 2024 the Republican candidate would pick up a net of three Electoral College votes.

Biden would win re-election, although by a narrower margin. A more immediate worry is control of the U.S. House in 2022. The Democrats currently hold only a six-seat majority in the House, and Republicans will control the redistricting process in most of the states that will be crucial to them.

Biden’s first presidential visit to Georgia in March was intended as a victory lap for passage of the American Rescue Plan, but changed in response to the spa shootings. Knowing the challenges that lie ahead, the White House will be hoping this week’s trip goes more as planned.

Tom Baxter has written about politics and the South for more than four decades. He was national editor and chief political correspondent at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and later edited The Southern...

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1 Comment

  1. The theory of the Democrats’ case is that if you perform, if you do good things people want done, that they will reward you.

    I am constantly seeing analyses that deny this case in an offhand manner. They assume that people won’t change their electoral views based on evidence, that even if the economy comes roaring back and COVID is gone, that Democrats can’t win in 2022 because of past history.

    Well, if that’s true, let’s throw democracy in the junk drawer and find another way. If people never change, if they don’t respond to evidence, if they’re so set in their political ways that poor performance won’t make them change and neither will good performance, then what’s the point?

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