If you had to pick a single state that will serve as a key bellwether of the 2022 midterm elections, you could do worse than to choose Georgia. It will host one of a handful of toss-up U.S. Senate races. The Republicans who control the state legislature, and thus the upcoming redistricting process, hope to flip at least one U.S. House district by combining two Democratic districts in the Atlanta suburbs. And the gubernatorial race is expected to be a red-hot rematch between Republican incumbent Brian Kemp and Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams, who fought nearly to a draw in 2018. And lest we forget, Georgia was the closest race in the 2020 presidential election.
So you’d figure Republicans, who are hanging onto control of the Peach State by their fingernails, would be laser-focused on 2022. But at their state convention this weekend, they were still obsessed with 2020, as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution explained:
The Georgia GOP convention was supposed to be a chance for thousands of conservative activists to project unity and chart out their strategy headed into 2022 races. Instead, much of the conference was focused on Donald Trump’s false claims of widespread election fraud in 2020.
Georgia Republican leaders fared accordingly. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who certified Biden’s win and then repeatedly challenged Trump’s lies, was formally censured (in absentia) by convention delegates for his failure to roll over. Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan, who similarly defended the election’s integrity, stayed away and was ignored, probably because he’s decided not to run for reelection. Attorney General Chris Carr, who refused to sue to overturn the results, did speak, and was lustily booed. So, too, was the guy you would expect to have been the master of ceremonies, that “politically incorrect conservative” (as he called himself in 2018), Brian Kemp:
The jeering was so loud it was difficult to make out much of what Kemp said during his remarks, at least from the back of the Jekyll Island Convention Center …
Standing with his wife and three daughters, Kemp powered through his address, highlighting his support for anti-abortion legislation, his approval of a measure that imposed new voting restrictions, and his aggressive reopening of the state’s economy during the pandemic …
[I]t was a far cry from the hero’s welcome that Kemp, the state’s first lifelong Republican governor since Reconstruction [the previous two governors were party-switching former Democrats], received at the last GOP meeting two years ago.
There was another nationally renowned Georgia Republican elected official who was not present at the convention, but whose very name when mentioned by another speaker elicited a standing ovation: Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene. As Politico reported:
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has been stripped of her House Committee assignments and rebuked by GOP leaders for recent comments comparing vaccine and mask requirements to the Holocaust. A Democratic congressman has introduced a resolution to expel her from Congress.
But at the Georgia Republican Party convention this weekend, it was hard to find many critics of the lightning-rod congresswoman.
To some Georgia GOP leaders, Greene’s profanation of the Holocaust was an innocent bit of hyperbole:
“It’s like saying it’s ‘hot as hell,’” Debbie Dooley, a founder of the Tea Party movement in Atlanta, said of Greene’s Holocaust comparison. Dooley was among a group of attendees wearing large “We Love Marjorie” pins on Saturday with her face in the middle of them.
University of Georgia football legend Herschel Walker was another no-show at Jekyll Island, disappointing Republicans who hoped to hear him announce a 2022 Senate bid. Per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
If Herschel Walker wanted to fire up Republicans about a potential U.S. Senate run, the GOP convention this weekend in Jekyll Island would have been the perfect setting.
Instead, the UGA football great skipped the gathering — and a chance to energize thousands of delegates who form the backbone of the state party.
Walker’s languorous indecision about entering a race that Trump has all but pre-endorsed him for is wearing out the patience of some potential rivals. Agriculture Commissioner and MAGA bravo Gary Black announced his Senate candidacy over the weekend. Representative Buddy Carter is indicating he may run if Walker doesn’t. Georgia House Speaker David Ralston is considering the 2022 race. And waiting in the wings is former senator Kelly Loeffler and her bankroll. Having devolved during the last year or so from her initial identity as Kemp’s handpicked valentine to moderate suburban woman, Loeffler emerged by the end of 2020 as a maximum hard-core Trump supporter and close ally of Greene’s:
Meanwhile, Democratic senator Raphael Warnock is raising his own pile of money for 2022 as his potential opponents play musical chairs.
Arguably, Georgia Republicans blew those two Senate runoffs in January, which gave Democrats control of the upper chamber, by letting Trump’s lies divide them. They are not off to a very good start in recovering from that debacle.