05/14/2020 - Gainesville, Georgia - Georgia Governor Brian Kemp receives information about a community COVID-19 testing site from Dr. Antonio Rios (center) of the Northeast Georgia Medical Center and Public Health District 2 Director, Dr. Pamela Logan (right), in the parking lot of La Flor de Jalisco #2 during a visit to Gainesville, Friday, May 15, 2020. (ALYSSA POINTER / ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
Photo: Alyssa Pointer/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM
Photo: Alyssa Pointer/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM

The Jolt: Brian Kemp continues to pay a price for his pandemic policies

The Washington Post ran a stark headline on Tuesday: “49 of 50 governors have better coronavirus poll numbers than Trump.” You’ll recognize the lone outlier. From the piece:

The one governor on Trump’s level is Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R), whose efforts to reopen his state have proved controversial. In the Post-Ipsos poll, Kemp’s approval rating was 39 percent; in the new one, it’s a similar 43 percent — the same as Trump’s.

Apart from Kemp, the governor closest to Trump is Hawaii Gov. David Ige (D), at 54 percent. No other governor falls below half of their constituents supporting their response.

Civiqs poll released Tuesday had a similar finding. Kemp’s favorability rating was at 41% -- and his unfavorable rating at 48%.

***

Our AJC colleagues have an excellent piece on how health departments in metro Atlanta, while they cope with sometimes shaky data from the state public health website, are generating their own, close-to-the-ground pandemic numbers. A taste:

Friday’s figures show the ZIP code with highest total number of cases in Fulton is 30331, which sweeps along the western edge of the county from Camp Creek Parkway to I-20. The area includes two senior communities with outbreaks, Arbor Terrace at Cascade and Summerset Assisted Living Community.

***

A morning head-scratcher from the White House arrived via this presidential Tweet:

“Breaking: Michigan sends absentee ballots to 7.7 million people ahead of Primaries and the General Election. This was done illegally and without authorization by a rogue Secretary of State. I will ask to hold up funding to Michigan if they want to go down this Voter Fraud path!”

Shhh. No one tell Donald Trump that this is precisely what Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger did last month, in anticipation of Georgia’s June 9 primaries. As in Michigan, Raffensperger sent out absentee ballot applications -- not the ballots themselves.

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More headaches for Gov. Brian Kemp: Several news outlets have wondered aloud whether Republicans would be better off if Kelly Loeffler, his hand-picked selection for the U.S. Senate, were sidelined.

This piece from CNN  asks that question. Loeffler responded on Twitter Wednesday, writing of the Atlanta-based network: “Nope. But we’d all be better off without @CNN.”

Another from Hot Air warns of “catastrophic” consequences for down-ticket Republicans in Georgia if she remains on the ticket. 

The aforementioned Civiqs poll showed Loeffler badly trailing Doug Collins in the November race. 

As we’ve reported previously, Loeffler isn’t about to relinquish her seat, and recently put up another $4 million to finance a new round of TV ads. Asked on Capitol Hill whether she might step down, she flatly rejected the idea.

More evidence of her intent to stay in the race: First Lady Marty Kemp will lead a “Women for Kelly” coalition to back Loeffler’s election bid. 

The campaign promises a “number of prominent female leaders in communities across Georgia” to help mobilize support ahead of the vote, but the first round of co-chairs includes Republican activist Janelle King and state Rep. Jodi Lott of Evans.

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Democrat Sarah Riggs Amico launched her first TV ad on Tuesday, a minute-long commercial that hits a number of the themes she’s frequently made on the campaign trail. 

The spot highlights the endorsement she earned from former President Barack Obama in 2018 during her run for lieutenant governor, her ties to Stacey Abrams, and her critiques of Republican policies during the pandemic. 

A key line aimed at disaffected Republicans who may be considering a Democratic ballot: “I teach my daughters that faith demands actions, not just words.”

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For the second time, audio has leaked of U.S. Sen. David Perdue speaking candidly to what he thought was a room of supporters. Last time, in an off-the-record call with GOP activists, he warned that Democrats were poised to make gains in Georgia.

This time, his comments were about fate and the coronavirus, according to a report in VOX:

“We get in an automobile, we drive on our public roads, and a certain number of us will die on our public roads every year,” Perdue can be heard saying on the recording of a Zoom call with the Rome Floyd Chamber last Thursday. “Well, each of us in a representative democracy have the freedom to make that determination about the risk level for me as an individual. And therefore, we choose to go or we choose not to go. In a situation like this, as long as we have good information, we can make our own decisions.”

...Perdue also repeated the conservative talking point that the death rate from Covid-19 compares to a bad flu season.

Both comparisons have been rejected by medical experts, including Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

***

By not saying “Aw, shucks, me?” when asked if she’d like to be Joe Biden’s veep pick, Democrat Stacey Abrams started a trend picked up by other women the presumptive presidential nominee is considering for the job. Deep in a New York Times piece is this bit of theorizing:

Several factors might explain this recent erosion of political reluctance. Social media has fostered an ethic that rewards getting noticed. “We’re in a much more aggressive celebrity and self-promotional culture in 2020,” said Beth Myers, a longtime top aide to Mitt Romney who oversaw the former Massachusetts governor and Republican presidential nominee’s running mate vetting process in 2012. “Everybody has their own mini-celebrity personality to maintain.”

The incumbent president has basically been saying and tweeting the quiet part out loud for the last four years. And he has been rewarded for it, at least by his supporters. Whatever you think of Donald Trump, no one will ever accuse him of being bashful.

Mr. Trump’s own running mate selection in 2016 followed a reality show format in which three presumed finalists (Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey and former Speaker Newt Gingrich) engaged in public tryouts before being winnowed in a final elimination round — with Mr. Trump serving as judge, jury and M.C.

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From the “against the grain” file: Wayne Johnson, a Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Kelly Loeffler, is assailing Democrats in Congress for abandoning their long-held commitment to resolving the student loan debt crisis – a feature absent from the $3 trillion stimulus bill they passed last week.

“The time is coming soon when the country will have no choice but to solve the student loan debt crisis and get the government out of the student loan business, and this just proves that it will take a Republican to do it,” said Johnson. He elaborates in this YouTube clip.

***

Two of three GOP candidates to replace Bob Ott on the Cobb County Commission said Tuesday that they would oppose a new city of East Cobb. Kevin Nicholas and Fitz Johnson both said creation of the municipality would add an unnecessary layer of government. Andy Smith said he would leave the issue to voters.

The remarks were made during the second of two virtual forums hosted by the Cobb County Republican Women’s Club. Also speaking were candidates for the Sixth District congressional contest, chairmanship of the Cobb County Commission, and the Post 5 seat on the Cobb County school board.

One of your Insiders served as moderator on Tuesday. You can watch that one here. And the Monday session here.

***

In endorsement news:

--- Gov. Brian Kemp has endorsed Charlie Bethel, associate justice of the Georgia Supreme Court, in his first election bid. “He understands the real world challenges faced by hard-working Georgians, because he’s one of us,” Kemp said. Bethel, a former GOP state senator, was appointed to the bench by Gov. Nathan Deal.

Kemp’s endorsement is significant. Bethel is being challenged by Beth Beskin, a former Republican lawmaker who had originally intended to seek the Supreme Court seat being vacated by Justice Keith Blackwell, who is to resign in November. That statewide election has disappeared -- the governor will fill the vacancy. A federal lawsuit is pending.

-- The Rev. Tim McDonald, the senior pastor at the First Iconium Baptist Church in Atlanta and a well-known figure in city politics, has endorsed the U.S. Senate bid of Teresa Tomlinson, a Democrat seeking to oust Republican incumbent David Perdue.

-- U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath, D-Marietta, was among a slate of candidates who were endorsed on Tuesday by U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., the former candidate for president. 

-- McBath also has the backing of U.S. Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-California, and his Remedy PAC. Swalwell had previously announced his endorsement of Teresa Tomlinson’s Senate campaign.

***

For the record: U.S. Rep. Drew Ferguson of West Point is among nearly two dozen House Republicans selected to assist with a new fundraising initiative for President Donald Trump, according to The Hill newspaper.

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