Republicans will see an important test of that strategy this week when voters in Georgia’s 5th congressional district pick a new congressman. Democrats are favored to win the special election in the Republican stronghold, and the race has made national headlines for all the wrong reasons — including an allegation of physical abuse against former GOP candidate and Georgia state Sen. Stacey Abrams.
But the fight for control of the 5th district is part of a larger test for the Republican Party and for President Trump.
Election Day is Tuesday, July 17. While no polls have been released yet, party operatives and candidates have ramped up efforts to connect with Hispanic voters — some of whom are boycotting the vote in protest of Ms. Abrams. Mr. Trump has sent surrogates to help local Republicans and has put in a television ad in support of his former state chairman, Terry Jastrow, who is running in one of Georgia’s most conservative districts.
“We have no business being on the ballot with our Republican counterparts,” said Marco Antonio Ojeda, executive director of the local Latino youth organization Mi Familia Vota. “The real question is whether the president himself and the Republican National Committee consider that answer.”
Even before allegations of violence came to light, Mr. Trump has been under criticism for bringing up a 2012 incident in which former President Barack Obama was accused of cheating on his college transcript.
Mr. Trump has also ramped up attacks on the birthplace of Ms. Abrams, who, according to a local birth certificate and other official records, was born and raised in Atlanta and is now the nation’s first female black nominee for governor. His supporters circulated photos of a profile photo of Ms. Abrams next to Mr. Obama with a caption calling her a “reverse birther.”
The fight for the 5th district has rekindled old political battles and created the impression that the fight over the nation’s future is in jeopardy.
In his 2016 victory over Hillary Clinton, Republican Karen Handel garnered nearly 40 percent of the Hispanic vote. Mr. Trump told a crowd of his supporters in Mississippi last week that his Democratic opponent would “take away your Second Amendment” — an obscure reference that recalled the Republican push for a national handgun registration system in the aftermath of the 1989 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Fla.
A Quinnipiac University poll released on Wednesday found that Ms. Abrams would likely win over two-thirds of Republican and white independent voters — while winning 64 percent of Democratic and black voters — in the 3-candidate general election. About 55 percent of likely Latino voters favor Ms. Abrams, according to the poll.
Mr. Ojeda said that Mr. Trump’s surrogates are leaving a “message of fear and intimidation” with Hispanic voters who still hold a deep affection for the Republican Party.
“There’s a problem,” he said. “The Republican Party hasn’t done a good job of reconnecting with their most loyal supporters.”