Georgia governor Brian Kemp broke some Never Trumper hearts on Monday night, announcing in an interview with CNN that he’s not running for president in 2024. He also offered some interestingly timed punditry on the potential impact of Donald Trump’s insistence that the 2020 election was stolen:
Kemp reiterated that if Trump continues his false claims that the election was stolen, “He’s going to lose Georgia in November.” …
I mean, for goodness sakes, it was two-and-a-half, three years ago now. …
“If you feel like the election was stolen – I know there’s people that are out there that do, there’s others that, you know, don’t, but it doesn’t really matter. The people want to know what you’re going to do,” he said.
This prediction came just hours before Trump let it be known that he’s almost certainly going to be indicted very soon by the Department of Justice over his actions in the lead-up to the January 6 insurrection. This means the whole political world will soon be focused on the events of “two-and-a-half, three years ago.” And the odds are very high that this extended look into what Kemp calls “the rearview mirror” will help Trump win the Republican presidential nomination or at least approach the voting phase of the contest as the unquestioned front-runner. After that, of course, Kemp may be right that the former president’s self-absorption and endless grievances will hurt him in the general election. Perhaps at some point Kemp will endorse a rival to reinforce his argument that Trump’s a likely 2024 loser, but he won’t become a rival himself.
As it happens, Politico has just given us a hint at what the Georgia governor might have in mind for his own political future, since he’ll be term limited when his current term runs out at the end of 2026:
What’s happening: Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is in Washington this week meeting with Senate Republican leaders — and creating a little buzz for Georgia’s next Senate race.
Details: The Georgia Republican is meeting with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday, according to two people familiar with the meetings. He will meet with National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Steve Daines (R-Mont.) on Wednesday, the people said. …
“I’m focused on ‘24: winning Georgia in ‘24 and the White House,” Kemp told reporters after meeting with McConnell.
I doubt pretty seriously that Kemp is strictly focused on 2024 while meeting with the very poohbahs who could instantly clear the Republican field for a 2026 U.S. Senate run against freshman Democrat Jon Ossoff. Kemp is certainly Mitch McConnell’s kind of guy: a cold-blooded political assassin who demolished Trump’s designated instrument of vengeance against him — former Senator David Perdue — in a 2022 primary before efficiently dispatching Democratic superstar Stacey Abrams by a bigger margin than he won in 2018. For Senate Republicans, Kemp is clearly an improvement on their 2022 Georgia candidate, Trump’s friend Herschel Walker, who lost while running well behind Kemp and the rest of the GOP’s statewide ticket.
Even for Kemp, who has built his own political machine in Georgia to bypass a very Trumpy state party, Ossoff won’t be a pushover. He’s smart and tough and something of a wizard at the mechanics of running a campaign in difficult terrain like Georgia. Ironically, Kemp’s 2026 prospects will improve if Republicans ignore his advice and give Trump the 2024 nomination, leading to a general-election loss. A 2026 midterm with a second-term Democratic president in the White House would be an ideal environment for a Republican in a highly competitive state like Georgia.
If that’s his goal, Kemp will have two more years to burnish his popularity in Georgia. He doesn’t have what you’d call a winning personality; he reminds me of a small-town banker cheerfully foreclosing mortgages all day long. But what he lacks in charm he definitely possesses in steely determination and a great electoral track record, so Ossoff had better get his game on early for 2026.