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Biden, Trump Clash in Dueling Visits to Swing-State Georgia

(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump clashed with dueling campaign visits to the same state for the second time this year, making their pitches in battleground Georgia.

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The Saturday visits to Atlanta and Rome — in a state that Biden narrowly won in their 2020 presidential matchup — follow the previous week’s split-screen visits to Texas border towns where the two clashed on immigration.

While Trump has targeted those border issues and economic malaise on the campaign trail, Biden has sought to reassure voters that his policies have revived the post-pandemic economy and that Trump would be a threat to democracy at home and abroad.

“When he says he wants to be a dictator, I believe him,” Biden said in a campaign speech in Atlanta alongside first lady Jill Biden, referring to Trump’s remark last year that he wants to be a dictator “for one day” if he returns to the White House.

As an example of Trump’s affinities, Biden cited this week’s visit to Mar-a-Lago by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. “This ain’t your father’s Republican Party,” Biden said. “These guys are different.”

Georgia provided a fitting backdrop for the showdown, ending a week that saw Trump cement his status as the presumptive Republican nominee in the wake of Super Tuesday primary results, and just after Biden’s State of the Union speech that made a sweeping case for a second term.

Trump, overlapping with Biden at a rally in Rome about an hour’s drive from Atlanta, derided the president’s speech to Congress on Thursday as an “angry, dark, hate-filled rant” and called the president himself a threat to democracy.

Trump’s trip took him to the district of Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, who confronted Biden during his speech about the killing of a Georgia nursing student allegedly by a Venezuelan migrant.

Biden said Saturday he regrets describing the suspect as an “illegal” immigrant in his riposte to Greene during the speech. “Undocumented. An undocumented person,” he said in an interview with MSNBC. “And I shouldn’t have used illegal.”

Democrats won big in Georgia in the last presidential cycle, with Biden’s victory marking the first time since 1992 that the state went blue, while Republicans also lost two close Senate races that helped hand control of the chamber to Democrats. Recent polling by Bloomberg News and Morning Consult shows Biden lagging Trump by about 6 points in the state — in line with the RealClearPolitics polling average.

Both candidates are pushing to win over minority voters, who could easily swing the results in hard-fought battlegrounds like Georgia. On Saturday, Biden’s campaign announced endorsements from The Collective, a political action committee for Black interests, the AAPI Victory Fund and the Latino Victory Fund.

Black voters were crucial to Biden’s victory in 2020, including a South Carolina Democratic primary that revived his flailing bid for nomination. But his reelection effort is imperiled by lukewarm support among Black voters, as economic sentiments have weighed on their enthusiasm.

When asked about the two likely major candidates in November’s presidential election, in the Bloomberg News/Morning Consult poll, majorities of Black voters, young voters and women labeled Biden too old.

“Our campaign will continue to build and expand our efforts to reach the key communities we need to win in November,” Biden campaign manager Julie Chavez Rodriguez said in a statement.

Trump has sought to capitalize on Biden’s disapproval among diverse voting blocs like Black and Latino voters in hopes of chipping away at the incumbent president’s support.

On Saturday, Trump cited a $255 million annual funding commitment for historically Black colleges and universities during his presidency, as well as criminal justice reform.

--With assistance from Akayla Gardner.

(Updates with Trump comment on HBCUs in last paragraph.)

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