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Georgia's biggest moments in the 2016 presidential race

Georgia didn't play a starring role in the exhausting and bitter presidential campaign that began nearly two years ago, but it also wasn't relegated to the sidelines. As 2016 comes to a close, here's a look back at some of the biggest moments in the Georgia campaign:

December 2014: Jeb Bush takes the presidential plunge. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush took another step toward running for president, but don’t let his brother’s victories in Georgia fool you: He would likely face an excruciating primary here. His more moderate stances on immigration and the Common Core education standards could clash with a conservative strain of GOP politics that dominates in Georgia. Read the story here.

Summer 2015: The SEC primary takes shape. What was once a gleam in the eye of Georgia’s top elections official has become reality in recent months, as most of the South has aligned for a blockbuster March 1, 2016, presidential primary engineered by Secretary of State Brian Kemp. The so-called "SEC primary" came together in the summer of 2015, and it it ended up serving as a launching pad that put Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump ahead of the pack. Read the story here.

August 2015: Trump's RedState rejection in Atlanta revs up presidential race. For months, billionaire Donald Trump has defied political gravity, as controversial statements and attacks have only enhanced his standing atop the polls for the Republican presidential nomination. Trump tested his limits with comments about Fox News host Megyn Kelly that led to him abruptly getting yanked from the RedState Gathering of conservative activists in Atlanta. His fellow candidates, most of whom had tiptoed around Trump, escalated their criticism. Read the story here.

October 2015: Clinton comes to Georgia looking to build a Southern firewall. Hillary Clinton closed out a pivotal month with a visit to Georgia as she looks to put the squeeze on her last remaining serious contender for the Democratic presidential nomination. She used the visit to call for a ban on racial profiling, but the stop was overshadowed by Black Lives Matter protesters who interrupted her speech. Read the story here.

November 2015: Trump ups the ante in Macon. The target on Donald Trump’s back is getting bigger as the first presidential votes near. And the Republican front-runner told supporters at the Macon Coliseum that he is ready to fire back should his GOP contenders intensify their attacks. “If somebody hits me, I’m going to hit them so hard. We’re going to hit them 10 times harder,” he said, adding: “There’s only one way to get to the top. And it’s all through Trump. Let’s face it.” Read the story here.

February 2016: A rush of candidate visits. Every major candidate visited Georgia in the days before the March 1 primary. Hillary Clinton appeared with Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed at City Hall, while Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders courted black voters at Morehouse College. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio held dueling rallies, while Ben Carson made a pilgrimage to Rock Springs Church. Ohio Gov. John Kasich tried to pick off a few suburban districts - "miracles do happen," he said - and Trump drew thousands in Valdosta. Read more about the story here.

March 2016: Clinton, Trump sweep Georgia primaries. Donald Trump won the bulk of the 76 delegates up for grabs in Georgia, the second-biggest trove of the sweep of states that are holding primaries or caucuses on March 1. Hillary Clinton routed Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary. Read the story here.

April 2016: Cruz outmaneuvers Trump in fight for Georgia delegates. On March 1, Donald Trump finished first in Georgia’s Republican presidential primary with 39 percent of the vote. At weekend gatherings of Republican activists meeting by congressional district, the New York businessman lost many of the delegates that were supposed to come with that March victory.  One group of spurned Trump supporters even stormed out of a meeting. Read the story here.

June 2016: GOP faithful rally around Trump.  To some at Georgia’s Republican Convention, Donald Trump was simply the “Republican presidential nominee” or the man at the “top of the ticket." To others, his name was enthusiastically invoked as the bulwark against another four years of Democratic control of the White House. Two distinct blocs of Republicans dominated the two-day conclave in Augusta, and they reached a hesitant truce to support Trump. Read the story here.

June 2016: Trump makes final campaign visit to Atlanta. Donald Trump made a brief swing through Atlanta, starting with a closed-door breakfast with Gov. Nathan Deal and concluding with a rally at the Fox Theater that attracted thousands - though few high-profile Republicans appeared with him in public more than 100 protesters gathered outside, and at least three were arrested. Read the story here.

July 2016: Newt Gingrich passed over as Trump's VP pick. Gingrich spent months saying all the right things to boost his profile as a potential Donald Trump running mate. He’s been advising the billionaire in private, praising him in public and attacking Hillary Clinton at every turn, fanning the flames for the likelihood that he’s auditioning for the No. 2 gig. Ultimately, though, the combination might have proved too combustible - Trump picked Indiana Gov. Mike Pence instead. Read the story here.

July 2016: The conventions. The majority of Georgia’s delegation to the Republican National Convention cast their votes for Donald Trump, and Ted Cruz's striking snub of Trump — and the cascade of boos that followed it - all but destroyed the party’s efforts to portray a united front and reopened lingering wounds in the Georgia GOP. Georgia Democrats largely rallied around Hillary Clinton and tried to position Georgia as a new battleground state. Read the story here.

August 2016: An Electoral College revolt is quickly quashed in Georgia. Baoky Vu, a Decatur businessman selected for membership in the Electoral College that will officially decide the 2016 presidential contest, said he might withhold his ballot from Donald Trump in December. Hours later, Vu had surrendered, and another potential revolution – one with national overtones – had been quashed. Read the story here.

August 2016: Clinton campaign boosts its efforts in Georgia. Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the White House is dipping a toe into Georgia, as polls show a tightening race in Georgia. The development comes days after the AJC released a new poll showing Clinton with a narrow lead in the state, and the day after another poll showed her with a wider lead. Read the story here.

August-October 2016: A surrogate surge to Georgia. Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton bypassed the state in the final leg of the race, but a crush of top surrogates visited. Bill Clinton made several forays to Atlanta to raise cash; so did President Barack Obama. Trump running-mate Mike Pence made a two-day trip through the state, and Clinton's No. 2 Tim Kaine targeted Hispanic voters in the Atlanta suburbs. Three of Trump's children visited in a two-week span in October. Read the story here.

November 2016: Campaigns hunker down for final stretch. With the race in Georgia and across the nation tightening, both campaigns focused on the ground game - the work in call centers, computer servers and neighborhoods where volunteers knock on doors and work on phone banks to make personal contact with voters. A late round of polls showed Trump with a slight lead. Volunteers for both candidates seemed to thrive on the challenge. Read the story here.

November 8, 2016: Donald Trump secured Georgia and its 16 electoral votes on his way to locking up a stunning election upset against Democrat Hillary Clinton. The Republican lost in each of the core metro Atlanta counties - including the GOP stronghold of Cobb County, which hadn't voted Democratic in 40 years - but he ran up huge margins in rural Georgia. Read the story here.

November 2016: Flush with victory, President-elect Donald Trump tapped Georgia Rep. Tom Price to be his secretary of health and human services, putting a prominent critic of the Affordable Care Act in position to make vast changes to the law. The decision triggered a scramble to fill his north Atlanta seat, and set up a likely battle in the U.S. Senate over his confirmation. Read more about Tom Price here.

December 2016: Georgia's 16 electors united behind Donald Trump amid mounting protests from critics hoping to block his ascension to the White House, as he formally locked up the Electoral College's vote. Only a handful of electors across the nation bucked their state's pick, and Democrat Hillary Clinton lost more of those votes than Trump did. Read the story here.

It sure has been a fun ride, folks. We've traveled across the state and across the country bringing you the latest on the race through a Georgia lens.

There's no question that 2017 is poised to bring more surprises. Happy New Year, folks.

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.