National News

Trump, Offering No Evidence, Cites Abrams’ ‘Past’ and Calls Her ‘Unqualified’

Posted November 1, 2018 9:41 p.m. EDT

ATLANTA — President Donald Trump disparaged Stacey Abrams, the Democratic nominee for governor of Georgia, in ambiguous and unusually personal terms Thursday, warning that “her past” left her “not qualified to be the governor.”

Trump did not elaborate and offered no evidence for his assertion, which seemed to be a potential preview of the political message he will deliver Sunday, two days before the election, at a Georgia rally for Brian Kemp, Abrams’ Republican rival.

But the decision of the president, who has been criticized for inflammatory language, to invoke Abrams’ background so broadly was a distinct escalation in his attacks on her bid to become the first black woman to be elected governor in the United States. Abrams, a former Democratic leader of the Georgia House of Representatives, has staked out an array of liberal positions during her campaign, but her tenure in the Legislature has drawn measured praise from the Republicans who led the state Capitol.

Trump had previously attacked Abrams on Twitter, but he had not made any overt references to her background until Thursday.

“She is not qualified to be the governor of Georgia, not qualified,” Trump said. Asked why not, he said, “Take a look at her past, take a look at her history, take a look at what she wants to do and what she has in mind for the state. That state will be in big, big trouble very quickly, and the people of Georgia don’t want that.”

A spokeswoman for Abrams did not respond to messages seeking comment.

Polls show a very close governor’s race, in which both candidates have accused the other of being too radical for the state. It has long been expected to attract presidential attention, big money and plenty of star power. And if there were somehow lingering questions about the contest’s prominence, they all vanished Thursday.

Trump first began speaking about Abrams, although not by name, in Washington on Thursday when a reporter asked him about the day’s dueling campaign events in Georgia: a series of rallies featuring Vice President Mike Pence, and a pair of town hall meetings led by Abrams and Oprah Winfrey.

Winfrey was energetic in her praise for Abrams and her policy proposals, but she focused her most impassioned remarks on voting rights, delivering a pointed rebuke to people who might willfully stay home along with a stirring evocation of her native South’s racist past.

“For anybody here who has an ancestor who didn’t have the right to vote, and you are choosing not to vote — wherever you are in this state, in this country, you are dishonoring your family,” said Winfrey, who, like Abrams, is a black woman born in Mississippi. “You are disrespecting and disregarding their legacy, their suffering and their dreams when you don’t vote.”

Pence and Winfrey were but two of the prominent figures campaigning in Georgia before Tuesday’s balloting. President Barack Obama is scheduled to campaign with Abrams on Friday in Atlanta, and Trump plans to travel to Macon on Sunday.

All are wading into a race that officials in both parties said could tip either way.

A poll, commissioned by WSB-TV and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, released Thursday showed a fractured electorate. Abrams drew the support of 46.9 percent of respondents to the poll, while Kemp won the backing of 46.7 percent. Nearly 5 percent of respondents said they were undecided, while 1.6 percent said they intended to support a libertarian candidate.

The poll, which had a margin of error of 3 percentage points, was the latest to suggest that the Election Day vote could end with Kemp and Abrams advancing to a December runoff if neither receives a majority of the vote.

Fundraising reports released Thursday again showcased the scope and fervor of the race: Abrams and Kemp had both pulled in at least $20 million through Oct. 25. The public disclosure reports showed that Kemp had about $4.2 million remaining, while Abrams said her campaign had about $3.9 million on hand.