How Georgia Republicans could make Stacey Abrams governor
Former senator and presidential candidate Bob Dole passes away
It looks like a couple of losers want Brian Kemp’s job as governor of Georgia. Stacey Abrams has long been assumed to be looking toward a rematch with Kemp after her narrow 2018 loss, but another political loser may be announcing his candidacy as early as today.
Atlanta’s 11 Alive confirmed over the weekend that David Perdue, who represented Georgia in the US Senate as recently as last January, will challenge Gov. Kemp in the Republican primary next year. Most people will remember Perdue as half of the Republican duo who blew a lead in the general election to lose in a runoff to Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff. There was speculation that either Perdue or fellow Republican loser, Kelly Loeffler, would run against Senator Warnock in 2022, but neither has announced and now it looks as though Perdue has his sights set on a different prize.
The root of Georgia’s Republican infighting is the same reason that Perdue and Loeffler lost their Senate seats. It all goes back to another loser, Donald Trump, and his failure to accept his election loss. Where Republicans could have won the twin Senate runoffs by campaigning as a check Joe Biden’s agenda, Trump forced them to join his unpopular attempt to overturn the election results while at the same time undermining Republican faith in the electoral process. As a result, many Republicans stayed home, and many moderates crossed over to vote Democrat and stop Trump’s steal.
In the process of Trump’s humiliating and ultimately failed attempt to throw out the will of the voters, several of Georgia’s Republican leaders made The Former Guy’s enemies list. Among these were Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, voting-system implementation manager Gabriel Sterling, and, of course, Gov. Kemp.
There really wasn’t a lot that any of Georgia’s state leaders could have done to “find” enough Trump votes to change the outcome of the election, at least not without running afoul of the law themselves, and it would not have changed the outcome of the Electoral College if they had. Nevertheless, Brian Kemp seems to sit at the top of Donald Trump’s poopie list. In fact, back in September, Trump said at a rally that he would rather have Stacey Abrams as governor of Georgia than Kemp.
And that may be what is behind David Perdue’s primary challenge to Kemp. Perdue may be a loser, but to Trump, he is a loyal loser. He has also become increasingly trumpy since his defeat, saying that Kemp “caved” to Democrats and calling Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan “Brandon” in a tweet, a thinly veiled comparison to Joe Biden.
The 2022 Republican primary is poised to become a very heated battle. If there was any doubt, in a statement responding to Perdue’s candidacy, Kemp campaign communications director Cody Hall came out with both barrels blazing, calling Perdue "the man who lost Republicans the United States Senate" and saying his "only reason for running is to soothe his own bruised ego." It is going to be a contentious primary.
And there’s a good chance that a contentious primary could end with a fractured party. The two sides are united in their dislike for Democrats, but beyond that, they don’t have a lot in common. Even though Kemp ran on a trumpy platform in 2018, complete with ads where he talked about rounding up illegals in his pick-em-up truck and another where he pointed a shotgun at a boy who wanted to date his daughter.
Since 2018, MAGA World has soured on Kemp, despite his success in passing a heartbeat bill, election reform, and making Georgia one of the first states to reopen after the spring 2020 national shutdown. All of this no longer matters now that Donald Trump is unhappy with Kemp. While there are still traditional conservatives in Georgia, a large part of the Georgia GOP is only concerned with what Trump wants.
Kemp is reasonably popular with the electorate at large, however. A September 2021 poll showed 44 percent of voters approved of Kemp’s performance compared with 34 percent who disapproved. Even though some Republicans are unhappy with Kemp, the governor has bipartisan appeal. About a third of Biden voters approve of Kemp’s policies, especially on economic issues and his handling of the pandemic.
Compared with other prominent Republican governors such as Florida’s Ron DeSantis and Texas’s Greg Abbott, Kemp has taken a more moderate approach. Georgia’s governor has been unabashedly pro-mask and pro-vaccine even though he has resisted mandates. He allowed local school boards to decide whether to require masks for the 2021-2022 school year even as he fought city mask mandates and President Biden’s federal vaccine mandate. The result is a middle-of-the-road, sane policy that gives everyone something to be happy - and unhappy - about.
I say all that to say this: Brian Kemp probably has a much better chance of winning the general election than David Perdue, a man who was last seen by Georgians promising to object in Congress to their collective decision to fire Donald Trump. Donald Trump was unpopular enough to lose the Peach State, but David Perdue, the man who wanted to disenfranchise Georgia voters, could be quite a bit less popular given all that has happened since November 2020.
At least outside the Republican Party. Inside the party, in the Republican primary, Perdue is probably quite a bit more popular. That could mean that Perdue gives Brian Kemp a run for his money in the primary. Given Donald Trump’s continued popularity in the GOP, Perdue could even win.
But what about the general election? Donald Trump and David Perdue lost their last elections and even though Joe Biden’s approval has declined since he took office in January, The Former Guy’s approval has not rebounded. A tone-deaf campaign by a former senator could put the Democratic challenger in the governor’s mansion. Even if that candidate was Stacey Abrams.
Three years ago, the relatively unknown Abrams almost forced a runoff against Brian Kemp. The former state representative lost by just under 55,000 votes, about 1.4 percent of votes cast.
She is a much more formidable candidate now. Abrams is now nationally known and it was her grassroots organizing that mobilized the voters needed to put Biden, Ossoff, and Warnock over the top in 2020. In many ways, Abrams was the architect of Biden’s 2020 upset in Georgia. She has learned and grown from her 2018 loss. While Georgia Republicans view Abrams very negatively, that isn’t necessarily true of the rest of the state.
And Donald Trump may not care that he is risking losing Georgia’s governorship to the Democrats with his vendetta against Brian Kemp. In an interview with David Drucker published in October, Trump hinted that he spitefully didn’t do much to help Perdue and Loeffler. Is there any doubt that he would similarly scuttle a gubernatorial race to get revenge on Kemp?
Georgia is not a blue state. At least not yet. But the surest way to make Georgia a blue state is to double down on losers like Trump and Perdue. If Georgia Republicans don’t take Stacey Abrams seriously, she might well end up as the Peach State’s next governor. And if Republicans take Stacey Abrams seriously, they won’t nominate David Perdue.
Bob Dole, a stalwart of the Senate and one of the first Republicans that I ever cast a presidential ballot for, died on Sunday. Dole was a true American hero, having lost most of the use of his right arm to a German sniper in Italy during World War II. his trademark was holding a pen in his useless right hand as a prop.
A lot of the coverage of Dole is going to focus on the July 2021 interview with USA Today where he called himself a “Trumper.” I disagree with the wisdom of being a Trumper, but I will stipulate that Dole earned the right to express his opinion.
When you see those quotes, remember that it isn’t the entire truth. Here’s the full context of the Dole’s comment:
"He lost the election, and I regret that he did, but they did," Dole said. "He had Rudy Giuliani running all over the country, claiming fraud. He never had one bit of fraud in all those lawsuits he filed and statements he made."
"I'm a Trumper," Dole said at one point during the conversation. But he added at another, "I'm sort of Trumped out, though."
Dole at least admitted that Donald Trump’s claim on a second term was fraudulent and seemed to break with him over the attempted coup from November 2020 through January 2021. That’s more than I can say for most Republicans.
I don’t have to agree with everything that Bob Dole ever said or did to acknowledge that he was an honorable man from a now-bygone era. May he rest in peace.
My tweet of the day:
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