A growing cast of White House wannabes plans to attend the Georgia GOP convention in Columbus next week, transforming a two-day event snubbed by many top state officials into a pivotal presidential pitstop.
The list of speakers is headlined by former President Donald Trump, who will return on June 10 to Georgia – the backdrop of several of his most stinging electoral rebukes – for his first campaign event since the launch of his comeback bid.
Trump’s one-time No. 2, Mike Pence, will address state party delegates at the Columbus Convention and Trade Center on June 9. The former vice president is inching toward a likely run for the nation’s top job.
Ex-Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson and business executive Vivek Ramaswamy also plan to speak at the convention. Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley is holding a fundraiser in Atlanta a few days before the convention.
And state Republicans are buzzing about a potential visit to Georgia next week by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, perhaps Trump’s most formidable GOP rival.
It’s Trump, of course, who is poised to generate the most attention. His outspoken attempts to overturn his narrow defeat in Georgia three years ago are now at the center of a Fulton County criminal probe.
And his failed campaign to oust Gov. Brian Kemp and other GOP incumbents has left enduring fissures among state Republicans that are poised to shape the 2024 race in Georgia.
Kemp and his allies, meanwhile, are trying to direct the party away from the former president — and a state GOP apparatus that shelters a core of increasingly hard line pro-Trump activists. The governor and several other statewide officials plan to skip the event.
Still, the convention’s sudden popularity among presidential aspirants has made it harder for others to bypass. We’ve heard from several rank-and-file GOP officials once planning to boycott the convention who are now making abrupt plans to swing by.
Georgia GOP chair David Shafer, who isn’t seeking another term, has relished the event’s growing significance.
“For a brief moment, Columbus, Georgia will be the center of the political universe,” he told WSB Radio’s Shelley Wynter.