Calls grow to ‘draft Kemp’ for president as Trump rivals falter

Georgia governor hasn’t taken any formal steps to run
Gov. Brian Kemp hasn't ruled out a run for president, but he hasn't taken any significant steps to launch a campaign. (Natrice Miller/ Natrice.miller@ajc.com)

Gov. Brian Kemp hasn't ruled out a run for president, but he hasn't taken any significant steps to launch a campaign. (Natrice Miller/ Natrice.miller@ajc.com)

The “draft Brian Kemp” calls are getting louder as the many Republican rivals to former President Donald Trump fail to gain any sort of traction in the run-up to the 2024 election, which kicks off in Iowa in just six months.

The Georgia governor still hasn’t taken any concrete steps to run, but he’s surfaced repeatedly in national conversations among Republicans worried about Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ faltering campaign and the gaggle of other GOP contenders polling in single digits.

The latest salvo came over the weekend when The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin suggested that Kemp and Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin offer Republicans the “only real chance for the party to move beyond Trump.”

Over the weekend, former Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan was asked about Kemp’s prospects on CNN. He said the governor has put on display “what conservative leadership looks like — and he did it in a nonhateful way.”

“He’s conservative but not angry,” Duncan added. “That, to me, is the model. If Brian Kemp wants to run for president, then I’ll certainly be there to help him.”

An unintentional endorsement came from the Democrat on the panel, Bakari Sellers, who said that if Kemp runs for president, he’s “actually talented enough to make inroads and do well in that field and do well in a conservative primary and strike a little fear in the hearts of Democrats.”

Kemp hasn’t shut the door on a White House run. But he also hasn’t built up the organizational structure or the fundraising apparatus to wage a labor-intensive national campaign. He seems very unlikely to run.

He has just a few staffers working on his federal political action committee, and his political circle remains very tight. Even in Georgia, where Trump has suffered some of his most stinging electoral setbacks, the former president still leads Kemp and other Republicans in polls. That has many at the state Capitol and beyond skeptical about a Kemp presidential bid.

But note this quote in The Hill from former New Hampshire U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg about late entries to the presidential race that’s making the rounds among Georgia Republicans:

“New Hampshire is notoriously late deciding,” the Republican said. “We can be two weeks from a major election, especially the primaries, and we don’t know who’s going to win. Very late-deciding voters.”

As for Kemp, he has continued to sidestep questions about his political ambitions while advocating for a post-Trump GOP vision — while rarely using the former president’s name.

“We have to be forward thinking,” he told Fox News. “We don’t need to be looking in the rearview mirror and talking about elections in the past or things that happened in the past. We need to be telling the American people and the people of this state what we’re for, what we’re going to do for them, what we’re doing to help.”

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