COLUMBUS, GA. (WRBL) — There will be a lot of buzz as more than 2,000 Republicans from across Georgia gather at the Trade Center for the state GOP convention Friday and Saturday.

And former President and current presidential candidate Donald Trump is at the center of that buzz.

He will be addressing the convention Saturday afternoon. And one of his surrogates, former Arizona Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake will be giving the keynote address at Friday night’s Victory Dinner.

Georgia’s top Republican, two-term Gov. Brian Kemp, is passing on the state Republican convention. So, are Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Attorney General Chris Carr.  

Kemp and Trump have been at odds since the 2020 presidential election. Trump lost Georgia by more than 11,000 votes to President Joe Biden.

The most powerful Columbus Republican, State Rep. Richard Smith – chairman of the House Rules Committee – tells News 3 he won’t be attending this weekend. He tells WRBL he will be out of town.

But there will be three state constitutional officers speaking, Lieutenant Gov. Burt Jones, Agriculture Commissioner Tyler Harper and Labor Commissioner Bruce Thompson.  

Here is what two Republicans – state party chairman David Shafer and political consultant Brian Robinson had to say about the Trump visit.

“Of course, President Trump will be delivering our keynote address on Saturday,” said Republican state party Chairman David Shafer. “And he never fails to deliver.”

Republican political consultant Brian Robinson says that the Trump appearance will have an impact to a Republican Party convention group that is swinging more toward Trump.

“Trump’s presence at the convention will supercharge attendance,” Robinson said. “It’s fairly normal for many delegates to kind of back out at the last minute, but they’re going to make every effort to be there to see Donald Trump. So, you’re going to see a really raucous, really energized crowd when he is speaking to them. And I think as long as his element of the party is the one addressing the crowd, you’re going to see a very exuberant reception.”

Trump’s trip to Georgia comes as he is under investigation for election crimes by the Fulton County DA’s office. Shafer has also been mentioned as a target of that Grand Jury probe.  

Substituting Lake for Trump’s former vice president, Mike Pence, has been popular with the convention delegates, Sharfer said. Pence had committed then backed out last week because of a scheduling conflict.

“I reached out to Kari Lake – I had heard speak at the Republican National Committee meeting – and she’s a very dynamic speaker,” Shafer said. “And she accepted on the spot as our pinch-hitter. And we’ve sold-out the convention center. We’ve sold 900 tickets to the dinner. And so, she turned out to be quite a draw.” 

Robinson said it would have not been a good room for Pence, who is announcing his run for the presidency this week.

“I think that Mike Pence would have gotten a hostile reception,” Robinson said. “The people who are in that portion of the party really hate Mike Pence. His approval ratings, even with the broader party, are very low. And so, I think that he would have had some bad optics if he had chosen to come to this convention. It is probably wise that he’s not coming because it’s not his crowd is not going to be welcoming.”

In addition to Trump, two other Republican presidential candidates are scheduled to be in Columbus. Former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson is speaking Saturday morning. Businessman Vivek Ramaswamy will open the convention Friday afternoon.

At the end of the day, Robinson and Shafer say this will be a good showcase for Columbus.

“A couple of thousand Republicans from across Georgia will be eating in restaurants and staying at hotels and contributing to the local economy of Greater Columbus,” Shafer said. “And coming there with a great deal of enthusiasm both to see the wonderful improvements that have been made in your downtown area and to enjoy fellowship with fellow Republicans from across the state and to hear from a dynamic lineup of speakers.” 

Robinson says it will political economic development for the city.

“It’s a good chance for the people of Columbus to see Republicans coming paying homage to the city and its voters,” Robinson said. “And doing little economic development for them along the way, with a bunch of people renting hotel rooms and paying hotel-motel tax and rental car tax there in Columbus.”