Opinion: Trump’s influence to be tested in coming weeks

Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., takes a selfie with President Donald Trump during the seventh inning of Game 5 of the baseball World Series between the Houston Astros and the Washington Nationals Sunday, Oct. 27, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The old saying tells us that April showers bring May flowers. But in 2022, it also brings a series of primaries in Georgia and 12 other states which will provide a real-time barometer on Donald Trump’s position as a GOP kingmaker.

In Georgia, Trump’s big effort to defeat Gov. Brian Kemp seems to be sputtering. The most recent AJC poll shows Kemp with a commanding 53-27 percent lead over ex-Sen. David Perdue.

Those numbers have not gone unnoticed.

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“No election is a better gauge of Trump’s GOP political pull than the Georgia primary race for governor,” said veteran GOP pollster Frank Luntz.

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Luntz is right. Trump wants to take down Kemp for the mortal sin of not overturning Trump’s election loss in 2020.

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That’s Trump’s main reason — and Perdue is on board with that 100%.

“First off, let me be very clear, the election in 2020 was rigged and stolen,” Perdue said in the first debate, again offering zero evidence of that type of fraud.

Georgia’s primary isn’t until May 24. By then, we’ll have a very good idea of how Trump is doing with some of his high-profile endorsements.

The first test is on Tuesday, May 3 in Ohio, where Trump has endorsed J.D. Vance for U.S. Senate, scrambling the GOP race. A few weeks ago, Vance was going nowhere. Now, he might win the primary.

“All things equal, he still matters,” GOP strategist Liam Donovan said of Trump. “A lot.”

On May 17, Trump will have two chances for another GOP Senate primary victory. In North Carolina, Trump’s support has moved U.S. Rep. Ted Budd up in the polls in the Tar Heel State over other more established Republican candidates.

That same day in Pennsylvania, we’ll see if Trump’s support for Dr. Mehmet Oz — yes, that Dr. Oz — propels him to victory in the GOP race for Senate in the Keystone State.

On May 24, voters head to the polls in Alabama, where Trump yanked his GOP Senate endorsement from the struggling Rep. Mo Brooks, accusing Brooks of not doing enough to pursue allegations of fraud in 2020.

That’s what it keeps coming back to for Trump — it’s all about his continuing false charges of 2020 election fraud.

Earlier this month, Trump specifically rejected the leading Republican for U.S. Senate in Arizona, state Attorney General Mark Brnovich.

Why? Because Brnovich didn’t pursue Trump’s groundless election fraud claims.

The AJC poll showed a majority of GOP voters in Georgia wouldn’t be swayed by Trump’s endorsement.

The month of May will show us whether that’s true for the Republican Party as a whole.

Jamie Dupree has covered national politics and the Congress from Washington, D.C. since the Reagan administration. His column appears weekly in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. For more, check out his Capitol Hill newsletter at http://jamiedupree.substack.com

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