President Donald Trump waves after speaking at a campaign rally Friday, Oct. 19, 2018, in Mesa, Ariz. Trump is in Arizona stumping for Senate candidate Martha McSally.
Photo: AP Photo/Matt York
Photo: AP Photo/Matt York

Trump ratchets up support for ‘great governor’ Kemp ahead of midterm

President Donald Trump sent a series of tweets on Saturday reinforcing his endorsement for Brian Kemp, which heightened the possibility that he will soon visit Georgia to boost the Republican’s bid for governor.

The president posted on Twitter that Kemp will be a “great governor” and that he has “prepared for this very difficult and complex job for many years.” Without mentioning her name, he assailed Democrat Stacey Abrams as “totally unqualified.” 

Trump’s late endorsement of Kemp helped power him to a runaway runoff victory in July over Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who was already reeling from the release of covertly recorded tapes, but this is the president’s most visible intervention into the race since then. 

Kemp’s path to victory relies on the same formula that Trump used to carry Georgia by five percentage points in 2016. The president was able to withstand the loss of metro Atlanta’s suburbs by running up huge margins in vast stretches of rural Georgia. 


That’s the same coalition that Kemp is trying to forge in a state that’s been dominated by the GOP for much of the last two decades. 

He has largely skirted metro Atlanta’s densely-populated areas in favor of conservative strongholds in rural Georgia, where he attracts big crowds and is more likely to get more local media attention. His 20-stop bus tour next week takes him to those areas, bypassing larger cities in favor of small towns. 

Abrams, meanwhile, is hoping for the type of turnout Georgia usually sees in presidential elections. She’s hoping to swamp Kemp in urban areas and newly competitive suburban territories by appealing to voters who usually skip midterm elections with a blend of progressive policies and mainstream promises. 

Trump’s pre-midterm campaign blitz has not yet ventured to Georgia, but he’s likely to focus on the deep-red southern portion of the state if he visits. That’s where Kemp is particularly dependent on a huge turnout. 

If he visits, Trump will inject a new wild card into the election. Kemp has modeled his primary campaign after Trump, even promising a “Georgia First” approach. But he’s tacked toward the middle of the electorate since winning the GOP nomination, more likely to bring up Gov. Nathan Deal than Trump.

As for Abrams, she was a vocal opponent of Trump who launched a “Georgia Resists” website when she was the state’s top House Democrat. But since entering the race for governor, she’s been wary of turning this vote into a referendum on the president. 

Abrams immediately seized on Trump’s tweets to raise campaign cash with her base. 

“If success is suppressing eligible voters, leaking our Social Security numbers, and pointing a shotgun at a child on TV, I'll pass,” her campaign posted on social media.

Read more recent AJC stories about the Georgia governor’s race:

The right to vote becomes a heated battle in Georgia governor’s race  

When 107,000 Georgia voters were culled – for not voting  

On the Georgia trail: Kemp doubles down on rural strategy  

Abrams takes a sharper-elbowed approach to Kemp as early voting starts  

Kemp’s office removes video that triggered outrage on social media  

A ‘legal mob’ accuses the Georgia GOP of libel  

Kemp to stump with Marco Rubio on Monday in Cobb County  

Abrams rallies with seniors ousted from Black Voters Matter bus  

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