If you’re a Republican you don’t have to be Ray Charles to have Georgia on your mind. Though, since Charles did the most amazing version I’ve ever heard of America the Beautiful at the 1984 Republican Convention, it helps.
On May 24th Georgians will go to the polls to decide a Republican gubernatorial primary contest between Brian Kemp, the conservative Republican incumbent, and David Perdue, a former conservative Republican senator who has hitched his wagon to the Trump populist wing of the party. It’s an open primary. Which means that anyone, regardless of party affiliation, can vote in it.
This is a grudge match. Trump is trying to knock off Kemp, Perdue is merely his pawn, because Kemp didn’t cheat for him in the 2020 presidential election. This is rich, as Trump is the reason Perdue and Loeffler lost to Democrats Warnock and Ossoff in the Georgia US Senate runoffs in January of 2021 in the first place. If Trump had stayed out Perdue would have won and Loeffler might have squeaked through, thus keeping control of the US Senate in Republican hands.
But Trump’s ego was looking for redemption after his presidential loss and he tried to find it in Georgia. He lost there. Then with the Senate in their power because of Trump, the Democrats have had a much easier time enacting the hard Left agenda of the Biden administration.
So this is Trump’s proxy war against Kemp, splitting the party to satisfy his own ego. If he wins and Kemp loses and Perdue goes on to win in the fall then it’s a feather in Trump’s cap and makes him more powerful going into the midterms and 2024. But if he loses to Kemp, or Perdue loses to a Democrat in November, then Trump will have seen to be merely a spoiler and again a spoiler who is de facto working for the Democrats.
There are other Republicans outside of Georgia who are watching the race closely. Haley, Hogan, Pompeo, DeSantis, and others want Trump taken down a peg so he can’t have the 2024 nomination handed to him or play absolute kingmaker that year. They are all keeping their powder dry, with Hogan and perhaps Haley the only two who may possibly run no matter what the status of Trump. If both ran they would, of course, split the anti-Trump vote and thus ease Trump’s way to the nomination. The other candidates would need a major Trump stumble to make the presidential race. They could find it in the Peach State.
The good news is that Kemp is up 10 percent right now and looks like a good bet. But six weeks is a long time in politics and an open primary can bring wild cards into play. This one is going to be a hard fight no matter who wins. A fight, given Kemp is a popular Republican conservative governor, that should not have happened but for Donald Trump’s obsessive ego.