Augusta – When Georgia’s Republican Convention last convened a year ago, Donald Trump was at the tip of every activist’s tongue, whether they enthusiastically invoked his name or solemnly warned he could sink the GOP’s chances.
At this year’s two-day conclave in the same cavernous hotel along the Augusta Riverwalk, Trump was celebrated — if he was mentioned at all. Those who assailed him a year ago held their tongue, and even his most ardent supporters turned their attention mostly to state and local matters.
In Georgia’s rollicking 6th District race and in feisty marches and town hall protests, Democrats have seized on Trump’s presidency to energize supporters. But many Georgia Republicans, regardless of their level of enthusiasm, have accepted him as a fact of life.
Nowhere was that more apparent than the GOP event, where more than 1,500 activists gathered to elect a new party leader and assess the growing field of Republican candidates for governor and other higher offices.
Trump also took a backseat in the feverish race to lead the cash-strapped party, a four-candidate showdown that was the focus of most of the convention. In that contest, a battle between grassroots insurgents and a more mainstream candidate, the establishment contender won.
“People aren’t dwelling on him,” said Michael O’Sullivan, a GOP delegate, of Trump as he nodded to the hubbub at a crowded bar. “There are dozens of conversations going on right now about local or state issues. It’s not good or bad about Trump. It’s just that we’re not focusing on his every tweet.”
Read more on MyAJC: Enthusiastic or wary, Georgia Republicans come to terms with Trump