Last weekend, Democratic strategist and New York magazine analyst Ed Kilgore explained that he believes Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is outmaneuvering Donald Trump in the state, but that it still may not be enough to salvage his political career:
“There are two very evident dimensions of the 45th president’s 2020 vengeance crusade. First, he has been impressively successful in getting a solid majority of Republican elected officials and rank-and-file activists alike to buy into, or at least refuse to contradict, his big-ass lie about having actually won — nay swept — the 2020 presidential election. Second, he and his bravos really want to draw blood from the Republican elected officials he blames for undermining his efforts to reverse the results before they were confirmed by Congress on January 6.”
“Chief among them were Georgia secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who certified Biden’s victory in the Peach State, and Georgia governor Brian Kemp, who ratified this certification.”
Kilgore added that the “odds now are that Raffensperger won’t even make the runoff if there is one.”
He also noted that Trump’s recruitment in the Governor’s race has been mostly a failure so far:
“Yes, the suddenly Trump-y former Democrat Vernon Jones is in the race, with the former president’s blessing (if not his endorsement, so far). But putting aside the issues with Trump, Kemp is a whole lot closer to the Georgia GOP’s idea of a governor than a Black ex-Democrat who was pro-choice not long ago and has quite a bit of baggage (including a rape allegation he refuted by claiming a consensus three-way sexual encounter).”
“Nor are Trump’s 2022 stumbles in Georgia limited to the governorship. He very publicly encouraged University of Georgia football legend Herschel Walker (a friend of Trump’s dating back to Walker’s days playing for a pro football franchise owned by the mogul) to run against Raphael Warnock when the Democrat pursues a full Senate term next year. Trump’s move all but froze the field as other Republicans waited to see what ‘Herschel,’ as he is universally known in Georgia, would do. But Walker, who currently lives in Texas, is taking his time as Warnock happily raises money, and Republicans could have to scramble for a candidate if the former Heisman Trophy winner ultimately gives the race a pass.”
Even if Kemp wins the GOP primary, he’s still at risk of having his political career ending in 2022:
“As for Kemp, even if he outfoxes Trump and avoids a serious primary challenge, he will still have a tough general election ahead of him, probably against the woman he barely defeated (after purging quite a few of her voters from the rolls), Stacey Abrams. All the steps he takes, moreover, to convince MAGA voters that he is as savagely reactionary as ever will probably eliminate any credit swing voters might otherwise give him for independence from Trump. But I’m sure Kemp is living one day at a time politically, and so far he’s surviving.”
As Georgia Republicans continue to blame former President Donald Trump for costing them the Senate seats of David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler in the January runoff, and Republicans nationally by and large thusly blame him for losing their Senate majority, many in the southern state are worried that the damage Trump has done to them is not over.
Speaking to The Hill back in April, Kemp wondered if Trump’s actions could cost them the governorship next year, as activist Stacey Abrams appears to be gearing up for a 2022 rematch of the 2018 race between herself and Kemp.
Another Georgia Republican echoed those thoughts to The Hill:
“He’s done a real number on us already. My concern is Trump becomes a distraction. You never want to have to deal with nonsense, and right now we really can’t afford his nonsense.”
A former GOP Senate campaign aide added that Trump’s unfounded claims of a “rigged” and “stolen” election in Georgia last year sunk their plans to blitz then Democratic candidate Rev. Raphael Warnock with damaging opposition research dumps:
“There was loads of good [opposition research] on Warnock, and it didn’t come out until the runoff. By that time, he looked like the nice guy — the guy who hugs puppies.
State GOP officials are fully expecting that Donald Trump will once against insert himself into Georgia’s elections, as he’s already endorsed a primary opponent against Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, as part of his pledge to “primary” any and all Republicans at every level who he believes did not do enough to help him overturn the election.
Another Republican campaign aide explained:
“There’s going to be some rough primaries. I don’t think there’s a way around that… everyone is going to be going after that Trump endorsement and tearing each other apart to get it.”