early and often

Mike Pence to Campaign for Fellow Trump Traitor Brian Kemp

Birds of a feather. Photo-Illustration: Intelligencer. Photos: Getty Images

There’s an interesting new development in Georgia governor Brian Kemp’s ongoing battle to humiliate Donald Trump by soundly beating the former president’s handpicked challenger, former senator David Perdue, in a May 24 primary. Another alleged Judas in Trump’s eyes, his former vice-president Mike Pence, is coming to Georgia to campaign with Kemp during the incumbent’s drive to dispose of Perdue without a pesky runoff.

The news is unsurprising given the earlier announcement that Pence’s longtime political majordomo Marc Short had joined Kemp’s campaign brain trust. And it also makes a lot of sense more generally. The two politicians both represent a form of Trumpism Without Trump, having faithfully followed the 45th president’s policy preferences and divisive rhetoric only to enrage him by a crucial failure to play the roles assigned to them in the 2020 election coup.

Kemp, of course, seconded the archfiend Brad Raffensperger’s certification of Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia and then refused to abet serial efforts to reverse the election results. Even more famously, Pence rejected Trump’s command that he find a way to thwart the final confirmation of the Biden victory in Congress on January 6, 2021. So the two men have a lot in common in being excommunicated from MAGA land while still embracing 99 percent of MAGA policies. It’s probably a lot like being a Trotskyist after Leon Trotsky was expelled from the leadership of the Soviet Union even though he remained a USSR-worshipping communist until the day Stalin had him murdered.

Kemp, at least, looks very likely to survive Trump’s attempt to take him down. He’s leading Perdue 54-32 in the latest RealClearPolitics polling averages, and his lead has been steadily increasing. He has an estimated 11-to-1 advantage over Perdue in cash on hand, and he’s still raising dough relentlessly: Next week, another Republican politician who would enjoy humiliating Trump, former president George W. Bush, is headlining a Texas fundraiser for Kemp. On top of everything else, one former (Chris Christie) and two current (Doug Ducey and Pete Ricketts) Republican governors who have gotten crosswise with Trump will be barnstorming with Kemp in the days just ahead.

At this point, barring some huge turn in events, the main mystery in the Georgia gubernatorial race is whether Trump and his closest associates will eventually get behind Kemp in what will be depicted as a holy crusade against Democrat Stacey Abrams in the general election. Perdue has already said he will do whatever is necessary to protect the state from the awful specter of a victory by the voting-rights champion and national Democratic star, as one might expect of a candidate whose pitch has always been that only he can unite Republicans in November. But on at least one occasion, Trump has said Abrams “might be better” than Kemp as governor. It’s unclear if the grudge-holder-in-chief will change his mind.

But for now, Kemp is showing that it’s possible to survive excommunication by Trump by sticking closely to the MAGA playbook of nasty partisanship, voter suppression (Kemp’s an old pro at that), cultural extremism (he has signed a law banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy), occasional attacks on alleged corporate “wokeness,” and a cozy relationship with the people who fund campaigns. Pence is a natural ally for Kemp and would have reason to interpret a big win by the Georgia governor as providing hope for his own plans to show that you really don’t need Donald J. Trump to take Trumpism into the future.

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Mike Pence to Campaign for Fellow Trump Traitor Brian Kemp