Donald Trump has spent a good part of this year patrolling state Republican parties to enforce compliance with the Big Lie of a stolen 2020 presidential election. A particular target for the MAGA discipline tour is Georgia, where he appeared this last weekend at the State Fairgrounds in Perry. Even though this was an event for a factional leader at war with several Republican elected officials, David Shafer, the state GOP chairman was there with bells on, and led the crowd in a chant of “Audit! Audit! Audit!”
Beyond Shafer, the Peach State MAGA posse was out in force, including House members Marjorie Taylor Greene and Andrew Clyde, and former Trump Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue. The stars of the evening, however, were the so-called “Trump Ticket” of candidates who are in contested Republican primaries: Senate candidate and long-time Trump crony Herschel Walker; candidate for lieutenant governor Burt Jones; and secretary of State candidate (and sitting congressman) Jody Hice. Jones is running to succeed Trump enemy and well-known RINO Geoff Duncan, who did not bother to run for reelection after serially disrespecting the Big Lie, and Hice is Trump’s weapon of vengeance against secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, who dared certify Biden’s Georgia win and then refused to reverse it later.
A good time was had by all as the former president ranted and snarled and smirked, but there was something missing: there was no Trump-endorsed gubernatorial candidate to feature and celebrate. That was a glaring omission since with the possible exception of Raffensperger, there is no greater Georgia Republican villain in Trump’s eyes than Governor Brian Kemp, who seconded and then defended the Biden certification. Yes, Trump stooge and Democrat-turned-Republican Vernon Jones was around, but he’s simply not taken seriously as a challenger to Kemp. Trump also did a shout-out to former Senator David Perdue, whom he’d dearly love to dispatch to take down the incumbent governor, but Perdue doesn’t appear interested.
This bugs the 45th president, as he made clear in Perry, according to CNN:
How little regard does Trump have for the current Republican governor? So little that in a campaign appearance in Georgia over the weekend, Trump sounded like he would be just fine with Stacey Abrams, Kemp’s 2018 opponent, becoming governor in 2022.
“And Stacey Abrams, who still has not conceded, and that’s OK,” Trump said of the former state senator. “Stacey, would you like to take his place? It’s OK with me.”
” … Of course having her, I think, might be better than having your existing governor, if you want to know what I think. Might very well be better.”
This was actually part of a Trump rant in which he taunted Kemp and Raffensperger for “surrendering” to Stacey Abrams because they were afraid of her; fearing a woman is a big no-no in MAGA-land. But you have to figure some of the audience, trained to think of Abrams as the incarnation of Black Feminist Evil, didn’t get the joke.
Kemp certainly understands that his long-awaited 2022 rematch with Abrams is his ace-in-the-hole against Trump’s effort to get rid of him. Before Trump got so interested in Georgia politics, Kemp and Abrams were the two warring personalities – one a moderate-to-progressive crusader for voting rights, the other a “politically incorrect conservative” proud of his reputation for voter suppression – er, I mean election integrity. Indeed, Trump’s first big foray into Georgia Republican politics was to endorse Kemp against Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle in the 2018 GOP primary runoff, an act that now makes him think of the governor as an ingrate.
Perhaps Trump will eventually find his dream candidate to challenge Kemp. But for the time being, he’ll have to be satisfied with disrupting the Georgia GOP’s state ticket by dissuading “his” candidates from any relationship with the man who will likely run the GOP’s Georgia campaign in 2022. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution asked all three statewide Trump endorsees about Kemp, and they all refused comment or changed the subject.
This has to quietly concern Georgia Republicans who remember how Trump’s narcissism probably cost their party two Senate races in January, along with control of the Senate as a whole. Even if he didn’t really endorse her, Stacey Abrams may come to think of Trump’s destructiveness as an asset if she does run for governor in 2022.