President Donald Trump and Gov. Nathan Deal at a meeting about prison reform, Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018, at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, N.J. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

A closer look at the ‘not surprising’ nature of Trump’s Georgia endorsement 

President Donald Trump’s endorsement of Brian Kemp struck like a thunderclap just six days before the Republican runoff for governor, propelling the secretary of state to a runaway victory over Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle. 

And although it came at a perfect moment for Kemp, giving him enough time to saturate the GOP electorate with reminders of Trump’s support, there was another impetus for the timing.

It came just days after Gov. Nathan Deal gave Cagle his tepid endorsement, a move that appears to have tweaked his predecessor, Sonny Perdue. 

Poll conducted by the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs, for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

At the time, Sonny Perdue’s allies vehemently denied any role in Trump’s decision. But none seemed to say it with a straight face. And now there’s no question: Trump told the Daily Caller that Perdue encouraged him to back Kemp. 

While it speaks volumes about Perdue’s influence in the Cabinet and the force of Kemp’s pro-Trump message, it also hints at the complicated relationship between Perdue and Deal. 

The two men, who briefly served together as Democrats in the state Senate, have never been particularly close. 

And word under the Gold Dome was that Perdue is particularly peeved by Deal’s frequent reminders of how bad the state’s fiscal condition was when he took office in 2011.

(It’s a favorite Deal line to speak of the paltry rainy day fund he inherited, down to just enough money to fund two days of state government, now grown to $2.5 billion.)

Which is why we were eager to catch up with Deal on his thoughts about Perdue’s intervention. 

“I won’t speculate on any of that, but I guess if he’s already admitted it, though, there’s no question,” said the governor.

Here, Deal’s omnipresent body-man tried to wrap up the interview, but the governor good-naturedly waved him off. 

“Well you know, he’s in a position to get his attention, obviously as a member of his Cabinet,” Deal said of Perdue, flashing a smile. 

“So that’s not surprising.”

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.