Impossible, you might be thinking. Well, consider another impossibility that happened this weekend: I found myself agreeing with something Trump said at his rally Saturday in Georgia.
No, not his laundry list of lies about the 2020 election. It was Trump’s remark that having Stacey Abrams as governor of the Peach State would be “better” than current GOP Gov. Brian Kemp.
As shocking as it is for me to agree with the man who allegedly incited the January 6 act of “domestic terrorism” (an accusation he denies), Trump is 100% correct about Abrams. But his comments this weekend weren’t about the truth that the political powerhouse, who’s the former minority leader for the Georgia House of Representatives, would be excellent in Kemp’s position. It was all about his anger at Kemp — which reveals so much about how dangerous the GOP is to our democracy under Trump’s leadership.
In 2018, Trump endorsed Kemp in a hotly contested primary. But two years later, Trump turned on Kemp for the sole reason that the governor refused to join Trump’s un-American effort to overturn the 2020 election, choosing to remain more loyal to the US Constitution.
Kemp wasn’t the only Republican state official who refused to help Trump subvert the will of voters — and Trump said as much at his rally in Perry on Saturday as he slammed various politicians, like “terrible lieutenant governor” Geoff Duncan. But it was Kemp who was the focus of the disgraced former President’s speech, with Trump calling the governor “disastrous” and repeatedly telling his fans Abrams would be preferable for the job.
Abrams hasn’t announced if she’s running in 2022. Still, at one point during the rally, Trump said, “Stacey, would you like to take his place? It’s OK with me.” He also told his adoring fans that “having (Abrams), I think, might be better than having your existing governor, if you want to know the truth — might very well be better.”
On that, Trump is absolutely right. Abrams would be a much, much better governor for the people of Georgia than Kemp, who signed a sweeping voter suppression measure into law earlier this year that not only makes it illegal to provide water or food to people waiting to vote, but alarmingly could pave the way for state GOP officials to overturn election results. Recent reporting by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution also found that Kemp’s administration dismissed advice from health experts during the pandemic, was slow to act at the outset and placed economic concerns over protecting residents — conclusions that Kemp’s team has disputed.
This, however, is not the first time Trump has slammed Kemp for not conspiring with him to overturn the 2020 election — despite three recounts affirming Biden’s win. At a December rally in Georgia in advance of the January 5 Senate run-off, Trump trashed Kemp for not assisting him to illegally overturn the election, leading the crowd to boo Kemp. And on the night before the run-off, Trump was back in Georgia, again denouncing Kemp for not joining in his coup attempt. The exiting President vowed that he would be back in the state “in a year and a half, campaigning against your governor.”
And just days before Saturday’s rally, Trump told a conservative radio host that if somebody ran against Kemp in the primary, “they’d win.” He then added more ominous words for Kemp’s future prospects: “He’s not going to be able to win the general election anyway, because the base isn’t going to show up for him.”
If the 2022 governor’s race ends up pitting the progressive Abrams against the conservative Kemp, will Trump supporters actually vote for Abrams? Unlikely. But this could lead to some Trump supporters simply not voting for Kemp — which could spell doom in this state that is trending blue.
Indeed, after Democrats won both Senate run-offs on January 5, numerous Republican strategists blamed Trump for dampening turnout with his focus on election lies and attacking fellow Republicans as opposed to helping the two GOP Senate candidates win. For example, Erick Erickson, a syndicated conservative radio show host and blogger in Georgia, put it bluntly after the election: “Telling everyone that the race was stolen when it wasn’t cost the Republicans two Senate seats.”
Scott Jennings, a Kentucky-based GOP strategist and CNN commentator, also put the losses on Trump, saying that he drained enthusiasm among GOP voters in rural areas with his election misinformation.
Abrams — if she decides to run — should be able win the governorship in the Peach State even without Trump’s attacks on Kemp. After all, she lost her 2018 run by only about 50,000 votes in a hotly contested election where allegations swirled that Kemp used voter suppression tactics to squeak out his win.
Since then, Abrams has founded the voting rights organization Fair Fight Action, which, per the New York Times, has inspired roughly 800,000 new voters to register in the state. Her work has been credited for helping President Joe Biden win Georgia in the 2020 election, and with helping Democrats Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock secure the win in the state’s January 5 Senate run-off. Add to that a poll conducted in May by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, which found that Abrams is viewed favorably by 48 percent of George voters, compared to 44 percent who favor Kemp.
If the Senate run-off is any indication,Trump’s trashing of Kemp can only help Abrams. And if it results in Abrams making history by becoming the first ever Black female governor of any state in our nation, Trump is right: Georgia will be better for it.