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Analysis-Harangued by Trump, Georgia's governor poised to rebuke him in midterm vote

World May 22, 2022 07:06AM ET
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2/2 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Georgia Governor Brian Kemp makes remarks during a visit to Adventure Outdoors gun shop as he pushes for a new state law to loosen requirements to carry a handgun in public, in Smyrna, Georgia, U.S. January 5, 2022. REUTERS/Alyssa Pointer/Fil 2/2

By Joseph Ax

(Reuters) - There may be no politician that Donald Trump wants to see ousted more than Georgia's Republican governor, Brian Kemp, who defied the then-president's demand to overturn the state's 2020 U.S. presidential election results that narrowly helped Joe Biden win the White House.

Trump has endorsed more than 150 candidates in this year's U.S. congressional elections, seeking to deepen his imprint on the Republican Party and remove any adversaries from its ranks.

But Kemp appears poised to deal Trump his biggest rebuke of the midterm elections thus far in Tuesday's Georgia primary to choose a Republican nominee for governor. The governor has built a massive lead in polling and fundraising over Trump's hand-picked Republican challenger, former U.S. Senator David Perdue.

Opinion polls show Kemp well above the 50% threshold required to win the nomination outright, avoiding a June runoff, with Perdue trailing far behind.

Kemp's success to date, despite a constant fusillade of insults from Trump, provides a potential roadmap for other Republicans eager to move past the former president's divisive obsession with the outcome of the 2020 election without alienating his still-substantial base of voters.

"I don't know if there's any politician in America who has been harangued by the former president like Brian Kemp," Eric Tanenblatt, a longtime Republican strategist, said. "His victory will hopefully make Republicans step back and say: I don't need to be so fearful."

Since his split with Trump, Kemp has struck a careful balance when it comes to election integrity, which has become an animating issue for Republicans in the wake of Trump's false claims that voter fraud cost him the election.

While he refused to entertain Trump's conspiracy theories, Kemp still helped enact one of the country's most sweeping set of voting restrictions four months after the 2020 election.

"Established Republican politicians don't necessarily need to listen to (Trump) all the time," said Audra Gillespie, a political science professor at Emory University in Atlanta. "Donald Trump is not omniscient or omnipotent, even in a party where he holds a lot of sway."

As he has surged toward the finish line, Kemp has picked up the support of other Republicans who have been the targets of Trump's ire and, perhaps, see an opportunity for payback.

Former Vice President Mike Pence, who broke with Trump over the former president's effort to block the certification of Biden's election, will appear alongside Kemp at an election-eve rally on Monday. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey and former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie also campaigned with Kemp in recent weeks.

'TRUMPISM IS NOT GOING TO DIE'

Kemp has embraced other core Republican priorities, signing bills limiting abortions and expanding gun rights while reopening the state early in the coronavirus pandemic.

Republican strategists say Kemp's emphasis on the issues exciting Trump voters, without embracing the former president himself, could hold lessons for other Republicans fearful of Trump's anger.

"Trumpism is not going to die, but Trump's influence is going to wane," said Douglas Heye, a Republican consultant.

The race shows that putting Trump's grievances about the 2020 election at the core of a campaign, as Perdue has done, is not enough on its own to prevail, even in a Republican primary.

"Elections are about the future, not the past," Tanenblatt said.

Kemp has also mostly declined to engage in a war of words with Trump, even as the former president has showered him with a barrage of attacks for months.

On the campaign trail, Kemp avoids mentioning Trump's name, instead touting his own record and attacking the presumptive Democratic nominee, Stacey Abrams.

"He never went after Trump on all of this election stuff," said Jay Williams, a Georgia-based Republican strategist. "He's stayed focused on his race and not made it about Trump."

Not every Republican enjoys the advantages that Kemp does as an incumbent governor with a legislative majority. He has also benefited from Perdue's weakness as a candidate, analysts said.

Analysis-Harangued by Trump, Georgia's governor poised to rebuke him in midterm vote
 

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Comments (7)
First Last
First Last May 22, 2022 11:36PM ET
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With the GOP, "the inmates have taken over the asylum."
gab nea
gab nea May 22, 2022 9:54PM ET
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what we hate is the downfall of a major political party once respected into the depth of the swampy right wing radical nuts abyss.
gab nea
gab nea May 22, 2022 9:51PM ET
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true trumpism will not die, however the republican party is already dead as we knew it last 60yrs. we need a new party and leave the trump party with the weirdo anti american, illiberal crazies.
Benjamin USA
Benjamin USA May 22, 2022 5:00PM ET
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The trump simps and cucks hate this
First Last
First Last May 22, 2022 1:04PM ET
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If Trump while potus had been more like Kemp, he would've won a 2nd term.
Brad Albright
Brad Albright May 22, 2022 1:04PM ET
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You mean not being a lying fascist grifter?
Paul Ferla
Paul Ferla May 22, 2022 9:24AM ET
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Trump's false claims that voter fraud cost him the election? No longer claims. Now clearly a documented fact. See Dinesh movie. Wake up.
Benjamin USA
Benjamin USA May 22, 2022 9:24AM ET
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Anything is fact if you scream it loud enough, right Paul?
B G Booth
B G Booth May 22, 2022 7:51AM ET
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It's time to unleash the party and dump Trump. Move on and take control this fall and in 2024.
 
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