It’s the latest sign of Trump meddling in 2022 midterm races to help his preferred candidates prevail over opponents who have refused to embrace his false claims about the 2020 election.
The former President endorsed Perdue shortly after the former senator launched his campaign in December and has been closely monitoring his performance in the primary against Kemp. Jones’ campaign has failed to take off despite his early entry into the primary last April, leaving him badly trailing both Kemp and Perdue. The latest Quinnipiac University poll of the race showed Jones with 10% support, while Kemp led Perdue by 7 percentage points — 43% to 36%.
Looking to close the gap between Perdue and Kemp, the former President invited Jones to Mar-a-Lago last Wednesday to discuss a possible transition to a campaign for one of two congressional districts — either the 6th or 10th — where Trump and his aides believe that Jones would fare better. Trump told Jones during that meeting that he is prepared to endorse him in either primary as soon as he makes the switch, sources told CNN.
People familiar with Jones’ thinking said he is leaning toward seeking the GOP nod in the 10th District, which is held by Republican Rep. Jody Hice, who is running for secretary of state. A Trump-backed candidate who has embraced the former President’s false claims about the 2020 election, Hice is challenging Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in the statewide primary.
Hice told CNN he has heard “rumblings” about Jones running for a House seat rather than continuing his bid for the governor’s mansion.
The 6th District, where seven Republicans are battling in the primary, currently is held by a Democrat, Rep. Lucy McBath. Jones’ most formidable competitor would likely be Jake Evans, a former chairman of the Georgia Ethics Commission who is supported by former House Speaker and Newt Gingrich, a Trump ally.
“If (Jones) gets in the 6th District race with a full-on Trump endorsement, he becomes an instant front-runner in the race. It kneecaps Jake Evans,” said one Georgia-based Republican strategist.
Another Georgia Republican said Jones is “definitely going to run,” it is just a matter of figuring out “where.”
A spokesperson for Jones could not immediately be reached for comment. A Trump spokesman did not return a request for comment.
Jones switching races would surely be welcomed by Perdue, who released his first ad Tuesday featuring Trump attacking Kemp and reminding voters of the ex-President’s endorsement of Perdue. Trump has falsely blamed Kemp for his loss in Georgia in 2020, claiming in December that the governor “allowed massive Election Fraud to take place.”
Kemp told Axios in January that he has “never said a bad word about” Trump but stood by his decision to certify his loss. Perdue has said that he would not have certified the 2020 election, even though the state law requires the governor to do so. In January 2021, Perdue and fellow Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler narrowly lost to Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, shifting the Senate to Democratic control.
Trump attempted a similar move in North Carolina’s Senate GOP primary late last year, when he privately encouraged former Rep. Mark Walker to exit the race and run for the House instead — offering up his endorsement if he did. The move was meant to assist Rep. Ted Budd, who, despite having Trump’s endorsement, has failed to emerge as a definitive front-runner in the primary, which also includes former Gov. Pat McCrory.
Ultimately, Walker ignored Trump’s entreaties. Last Thursday, he announced that he was going to remain in the Senate race even though he was “thrilled to get all these endorsements and asking about the U.S. House.”