BIBB COUNTY, Ga. — President Donald Trump went after his opponent’s family and defended his own struggle to contain the pandemic on Friday as he fought to energize his sagging reelection bid in the nation’s Sun Belt.
Trump made a stop in Macon Friday night, his second visit to the state in the past month and the first since his COVID-19 diagnosis.
His decision to devote Friday evening’s prime-time slot to Georgia in particular highlighted the serious nature of his challenge: Far from his original plan to expand into Democratic-leaning states, he is laboring to stave off a defeat of major proportions.
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No Republican presidential candidate has lost Georgia since George H.W. Bush in 1992. And earlier this week, Trump had to court voters in Iowa, a state he carried by almost 10 points four years ago.
While in Macon, he cited support from former University of Georgia football star Herschel Walker to win favor from his rally crowd. “How good was Herschel Walker?” Trump said as the Georgia crowd roared. “He’s on our side, and he’s an incredible guy.”
“I am moving heaven and earth to safeguard our seniors from the China virus,” Trump said, using his usual blame-shifting term to describe the coronavirus. He also offered an optimistic assessment of the pandemic, even as a surge of new infections spread across America.
“We are prevailing,” the president said, promising to deliver the first doses of a vaccine to seniors when it’s ready.
Earlier in the day, Channel 2 political reporter Richard Elliot spoke exclusively with Trump ahead of his trip to middle Georgia.
The president, along with the first lady and their son, continue to recover from the virus.
Trump told Elliot that he feels better — certainly enough to attend this rally.
“Well, I think, Richard, is what it really has done for me is shows what a great job they’ve done, the doctors, the labs because they gave me something, Regeneron, and for me it was very good. It worked very quickly because I was better very quickly,” Trump said.
Georgia Democrats say they think the rally was a bad idea.
Elliot asked Trump about the recent surge in COVID-19 cases especially up north. Trump acknowledged that and a new surge across Europe.
Even so, he vowed not to shut down the economy again and promised a vaccine is coming soon, even though experts don’t expect one until next year.
“The vaccines are getting ready to come out, and we’re rounding the corner very strongly, rounding the corner and the economy is looking very, very strong,” Trump said.
A few hours later, a parade of cars rounded the corner of a downtown Macon street as Georgia Democrats rallied to support Vice President Joe Biden.
Macon lawmaker James Beverly criticized the decision to have a big rally here during a pandemic.
“After 210,000 lives lost and even his own diagnosis and hospitalization, Donald Trump still has not learned his lessons from COVID-19,” Beverly said. “He’s inept in trying to control this virus and another super spreader event may be on the horizon, and so i think it’s dangerous and he shouldn’t have come.”
In our most recent poll, Trump has jumped back in the lead in Georgia, but the race for president is really too close to call and well within the poll’s margin of error.
The Associated Press contributed to this article.