2024 Presidential Debate: do Trump and Biden value Georgia voters?

Photo courtesy of Blake Israel

The political maelstrom has come to Georgia as the state hosts the first 2024 presidential debate between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump. Since the 2020 presidential election, Georgia has become a key political battleground. From senatorial and gubernatorial races to Fulton County indictments, both sides of the political spectrum are calling on Georgia voters to pick a side. 

With the Peach State’s increasing political pull, the question remains: Do the candidates really value Georgia voters?  

The best way to gauge a candidate’s fidelity to a state is by the policies they support, their devotion to those principles and how they engage with the state. Neither Trump nor Biden have passed this test with flying colors.

When Biden and Trump take the stage at CNN studios on Thursday, they will undoubtedly call upon viewers to support them in their bids for the White House. Hopefully, a discussion of policy will be nestled among the political stumping and vitriolic opponent-bashing that has undermined past debates.

For Georgia voters, it’s clear — the economy is the top ticket item in November, according to a poll by Quinnipiac University, with 29% of Georgians listing it as their most important issue in the election. 

The Biden administration touts record wages and low unemployment as evidence of a healthy economy. Inflation peaked in 2022 at 9.06 percent and steadily declined to 3.27 percent as of May. By all technical standards, the Georgia economy has performed well during Biden’s tenure, but voters are still dissatisfied. 

When Georgians go to pump gas or check out at the grocery store, the price is too high. The increased cost of living is crushing everyday people — their dollar simply doesn’t go as far as it used to. 

When asked who is to blame, RNC spokesperson Henry Scavone says, “Joe Biden’s policies have led to higher prices, lower wages and a struggling agriculture industry for families in Georgia.”

As students, we feel the squeeze of inflation. Biden’s assertion that the economy is improving isn’t enough to assuage our concerns — neither candidate has shown a clear plan to reduce costs or adequately defended their economic record. 

While Republicans fault Biden for inflation, Moody Analytics reports that Biden’s policies are better overall for the economy. Since taking office, Biden has created 450,000 jobs in Georgia and invested billions in Georgia infrastructure projects and small businesses, propelling record numbers of new Black and Latino-owned startups.

Biden suffers from a perception problem.

For Biden to move the dial on Georgians’ opinion of his economic record, he must acknowledge the reality of increased costs while confidently asserting his administration’s progress. The numbers don’t speak for themselves; more analysis is necessary than simply stating that Biden is good for the economy. While he has the evidence to back it up, Biden must tout his economic record and plans for the next four years to sway skeptics.

Perception is critical for both campaigns as they vie for poll superiority. As it stands, Trump is on top with a five percent lead over Biden. Both campaigns have begun to mobilize across the state to garner support. 

The Republicans have opened more than a dozen Trump Force 47 campaign offices throughout the state and plan to establish more. However, on their ground game, the Trump campaign is playing catch-up in Georgia. Biden has more offices, more staff and a more established network to spread his message.

Biden and his allies have been in the state more. Trump has visited Georgia on only a handful of occasions, while the president, vice president, first lady and second gentlemen have visited the state frequently. The Biden campaign has held over two hundred events in the state this week, drumming up anticipation for the debates. It would be remiss if we didn’t mention Trump has been on trial for multiple felonies in New York, which may explain his decreased presence in Georgia.

In May, Biden gave the commencement address at Morehouse College, where he touted his administration’s accomplishments for Black Americans. Biden’s presence was controversial, with alumni and students demanding that the offer for Biden to speak be revoked in solidarity with the Palestinian people. Biden must avoid the perception that he is simply window-dressing his support of Black America. The tension highlights how Biden’s support from Black Americans has dwindled, and according to the Washington Post, their turnout in 2024 will be critical to his victory in Georgia. 

The Trump campaign is quick to point out the dwindling support of the Black community for Biden. And it’s true — Biden has seen a decrease in support, especially among Black farmers in the state.

When it comes down to it, Georgians have severe election fatigue. We are tired of the attack ads on television, tired of political bickering and, most of all, tired of the candidates.

According to polling by the Associated Press, a rematch of the 2016 election is widely unpopular, yet here we are. We join the public in our lack of enthusiasm for the candidates. Biden has always suffered from lukewarm Democratic support, and Trump has successfully managed to push moderates even further away with his felony convictions and controversial rhetoric.

The debate tomorrow will potentially serve as a major turning point in the race for Georgia. Biden will either use this opportunity to energize Democrats, build momentum and explain to everyday voters how his administration is helping them, or he will falter and solidify Trump’s standing in the state.

Porsha White, the Biden campaign’s Georgia state director, says, “The debate will highlight for Georgians and people across the country the clear choice in this election between President Biden’s vision for America, where freedoms are protected, and every Georgian has a fair shot, and Donald Trump’s pledge to serve as a dictator on day one.”

So the question remains: Do the candidates really value Georgia voters? Both campaigns seem more concerned with getting votes than about the voters themselves. While it is easy in a campaign to get caught up in why the other candidate is flawed, Georgia voters desperately need to be reminded why they should even vote at all. 

While we may be exhausted by the candidates, we should never take for granted the right to vote nor the enormous responsibility we bear as citizens in determining the leaders of our Republic. And while the numbers will consume the campaigns, they should never forget who they are working for: the everyday person with everyday dilemmas — can they find a job, will they be able to afford their groceries, are they safe in their neighborhoods, are they better off today than they were yesterday?

Amid all of the uncertainty of the upcoming debate and the 2024 election, one thing is certain: Georgians shouldn’t be taken for granted.