Perdue is the crown jewel of this strategy, a former senator and successful businessman who narrowly lost a runoff race to Sen. Jon Ossoff (D) in January. Trump had been encouraging Perdue to get into the race for months.
“Are you going to run for governor, David Perdue?” he asked the former Senator at a rally in September, adding that Perdue was a “great guy.”
Kemp has been at the top of Trump’s target list since last November when the Georgia Republican refused to overturn the presidential election in the state at the Trump’s urging. Earlier this month, Trump insisted that “the MAGA base will just not vote for [Kemp] after what he did with respect to Election Integrity and two horribly run elections, for President and then two Senate seats.”
With Perdue now in the race, Trump has something close to a full slate of hand-picked candidates running in Republican primaries in the state. In addition to Perdue, state Sen. Burt Jones is running for the open lieutenant governor’s seat after current Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, a prominent Trump critic, announced he would not seek a second term on the job. And Rep. Jody Hice, again with Trump’s urging and backing, is running against Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in next year’s Republican primary. (Like Kemp, Raffensperger became the object of significant derision by Trump and his allies for his refusal to overturn the 2020 results in the state.)
Republicans in Georgia have been dreading the possibility of a Kemp-Perdue clash — particularly with 2018 nominee Stacey Abrams running again in 2022 for Democrats.
“I would hate to see two good men run against each other,” Eric Tanenblatt, former chief of staff to Republican former Gov. Sonny Perdue, told CNN’s Mike Warren last month. “Having watched the Republican Party become the dominant party in Georgia, it’s puzzling to me we would see a sitting incumbent Republican governor be challenged by another Republican.”
Tanenblatt makes a good point — if, that is, Trump was focused on what the best thing is for the Republican party since there’s no question that a slugfest between Kemp and Perdue makes either man more vulnerable to Abrams in a general election.
But, of course, Trump isn’t focused on doing what’s best for the Republican party. He is focused on doing what’s best for Donald Trump. And the former president is dead set on ensuring that what happened in 2020 won’t happen to him again in 2024.
Now, it’s worth noting here that what “happened” to Trump in 2020 is that he got less votes that President Joe Biden in Georgia. Biden got 2,473,633 votes (49.5%) to Trump’s 2,461,854 (49.2%). Yes, it was very close! But, there was — and is — no reliable evidence of voter fraud or manipulation that would have handed Trump a victory in the state.
Remember that Trump repeatedly pressured Raffensperger to “find” the votes he needed to be declared the victor.
“I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have,” Trump told the Georgia Secretary of State on a phone call in early January.
Raffensperger declined, rightly noting that his job wasn’t to find votes but rather to ensure the votes cast were properly counted and checked.
Trump wants someone in that job — as well as in the governor’s mansion — come 2024 who won’t turn down his request to “find” the votes he needs, so he is creating chaos in the Republican party of Georgia to ensure that outcome.
If you have any doubt where Perdue’s loyalties lie — and what he would do if put into the governor’s mansion ahead of the 2024 presidential election — all you need to do is listen to what he said in a video announcing his campaign on Monday.
“[Kemp] has failed all of us and cannot win in November,” said Perdue. “Instead of protecting our elections, he caved to Abrams and cost us two Senate seats, the Senate majority and gave Joe Biden free reign. Think about how different it would be today if Kemp had fought Abrams first instead of fighting Trump.”