The Jolt: Donald Trump takes his Brian Kemp revenge tour to Ohio

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Donald Trump made his return to campaign-style rallies over the weekend in Ohio for what was described by Politico as a “winding but largely familiar” speech.

Trump mostly replayed his favorite 2020 hits, but he also made it clear that revenge in Georgia for his 2020 loss will be on his mind well into 2022.

“Stacey Abrams – she said she won for governor. By the way, we might have been better if she did win for governor of Georgia, if you want to know the truth. We might have had a better governor if she did win.”

Article continues below

That, of course, was a jab at Gov. Brian Kemp, whom Trump has repeatedly blamed for his 2020 defeat. And his mention of Abrams and Kemp in Ohio is only the latest reminder that the former president hasn’t moved beyond his frustration with Kemp.

Our journalists are committed to pursuing the facts.Thank you for subscribing to
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Nor has he endorsed a rival to Kemp in the 2022 primary, even as he’s backed Rep. Jody Hice in the race against Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, another Republican Trump loves to hate.

Support Our JournalistsThe Atlanta Journal-Constitution's journalists report what's really going on in your community.

More evidence that Georgia remains front-and-center for Trump: Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene was one of the opening acts in Ohio. She referred to Trump as “my president” and repeated his false claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him.

“Let me ask you a question — who is president?” Greene asked the crowd. “Trump! Trump! Trump!” the crowd roared in response.

Then she went after House colleague Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, claiming the New York Democrat isn’t an American and “really doesn’t embrace our American ways.”

That’s not true. AOC was born and raised in New York. Ocasio-Cortez mocked the Georgian, who also called her a “little Communist,” with this retort on Twitter: “First of all, I’m taller than her.”

***

Donald Trump has made it clear he wants to see Herschel Walker get into the 2022 race against U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock.

Walker was in Georgia Sunday night and starring in a tweet from state Sen. Burt Jones, who wrote, “Good to be with my good friend @HerschelWalker this evening at a charity fundraiser in Marietta, Georgia.”

The charity hosting the two former UGA football players (Jones was a walk-on in the Mark Richt era) was the George Rogers Foundation, which raises money for first-generation college scholarships with an annual celebrity golf tournament.

An invitation for the Sunday night event obtained by your Insiders made it clear Walker was on the confirmed list of Heisman trophy winners advertised well in advance. This was not a last-minute maneuver to set the Georgia chattering class aflame.

Also on hand at the Marietta Country Club was former University of Florida football coach Steve Spurrier, who Tweeted out a picture of himself with NFL legend, Lawrence Taylor.

Our gut says Walker is going to run for U.S. Senate, but we’ve heard precious little from him or from people who have spoken with him about it.

Other than the tweet last night, the only other recent hint has been from Walker himself, tweeting out “Georgia on my mind,” with a video with a Georgia license plate, suggesting a move from Texas could be underway.

We don’t know if Walker has moved to Georgia yet, but Jones’ tweet signals that Walker is starting to spend a bit more time outside of his longtime Texas home.

One more unanswered question raised by the tweet: What is on Jones’ feet?

One of your Insiders guessed the open air shoes were luxury Crocs, but another Insider ID’s them as “Floafers,” an affordable tasseled loafer made of foam and sold as “environmentally friendly.” Who knew?

***

News last week that the U.S. Justice Department is suing Georgia over its new election law came as good news for some Republicans, who believe the suit will only bolster their chances in 2022.

From the AJC’s Sunday piece on the topic:

“This is an us-against-them kind of thing," said Martha Zoller, a conservative commentator and radio host. “It will be seen by the base as Gov. Kemp defending the state's laws, and it does it without dragging up the 2020 stuff. That's because it will focus attention on what Republicans are doing in 2021 without looking backward" to Trump's loss.

- The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

***

Another possible candidate for the Senate race against Warnock is former U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who lost to Warnock in the January runoff election this year.

Loeffler was in Statesboro at the end of last week talking about her GOP get-out-the-vote project, Greater Georgia.

The Statesboro Herald was on hand for her remarks, when she talked about her relationship with former president Donald Trump.

“I keep in touch regularly with President Trump, had dinner with him less than a month ago, I guess,” she said. “And he appreciates the work we’re doing.”

And she gave a critical piece of insight about why she and other Republicans are continuing to beat the drum on the 2020 election and (unsupported) allegations of voter fraud.

“Greater Georgia is premised on three things, and I’m going to flip the script about them a little bit, first of all starting with election integrity, it turns out, the polling that we’ve done, that’s the number-one issue here in Georgia for conservatives.”

***

The Wall Street Journal’s Michael Bender reports in his new book that Donald Trump planned to skip Georgia in the final stretch of the 2020 race because his advisers told him he’d carry the state easily.

Former U.S. Sen. David Perdue convinced him to change course and add Georgia to his schedule. As with so many other Trump-ian tales, the former president essentially confirmed it himself at the rally in Rome that November night.

“I shouldn’t even be here. They say I have Georgia made. But you know what? I said, ‘I promised we have to be here,’” he told the crowd. “No, they said, ‘Sir, you don’t have to come to Georgia. We have it made. It’s won.’ By the way, just go out and vote. OK? Just go out and vote.”

***

Even if GOP voters still believe Trump’s claims that the Georgia election was rigged against him, his former Attorney General William Barr never did.

In an interview for Jon Karl’s new book, Barr told the ABC News correspondent that he never bought into the former president’s accusations that the results in Georgia and other states had been flipped by illegal votes.

“If there was evidence of fraud, I had no motive to suppress it. But my suspicion all the way along was that there was nothing there. It was all bull***t.”

Karl also writes that Georgia became the focal point of both Trump and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell as the two Senate runoffs loomed in January.

Barr told me that Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell had been urging him to speak out since mid-November. Publicly, McConnell had said nothing to criticize Trump's allegations, but he told Barr that Trump's claims were damaging to the country and to the Republican Party. Trump's refusal to concede was complicating McConnell's efforts to ensure that the GOP won the two runoff elections in Georgia scheduled for January 5.

To McConnell, the road to maintaining control of the Senate was simple: Republicans needed to make the argument that with Biden soon to be in the White House, it was crucial that they have a majority in the Senate to check his power. But McConnell also believed that if he openly declared Biden the winner, Trump would be enraged and likely act to sabotage the Republican Senate campaigns in Georgia. Barr related his conversations with McConnell to me. McConnell confirms the account.

“Look, we need the president in Georgia," McConnell told Barr, “and so we cannot be frontally attacking him right now. But you're in a better position to inject some reality into this situation. You are really the only one who can do it."

- The Atlantic

***

The Georgia House and Senate redistricting committees are holding more town hall meetings this week to gather public input. Each meeting will be held from 5-7 p.m.

  • Tonight in Atlanta, room 341 of the State Capitol;
  • Tuesday, at South Forsyth High School cafeteria in Cumming;
  • Wednesday at Gignilliat Hall at Dalton State College.

***

The calendar still says 2021, but it’s already endorsement time for the 2022 elections.

State Rep. Derrick Jackson has picked up the endorsement of former Atlanta mayor and U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young in Jackson’s bid for Lieutenant Governor.

Young said he’s supporting the Fayette Democrat “because his 37 years of leadership experience and service make him unequivocally qualified” for the statewide post.

Along with Jackson, state Rep. Erick Allen, D-Smyrna, state Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, and conservative activist Jeanne Seaver are also in the running for LG.

***

It’s Senate recess week in Washington, so look for Georgia’s two U.S. senators out and about this week.

U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock will be doing a “Jobs for Georgia,” tour, hitting the Dalton QCells factory, Grady Hospital in Atlanta, Dobbins Air Force Base in Marietta, and other stops between Crandall and Cobb.

U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff will tour the state to highlight the new $3,000 child tax credit in the American Rescue Plan, with stops in Atlanta, Macon, and Columbus. He’ll also make a stop at the Kia plant in West Point and speak at a citizenship ceremony heading into the July 4th weekend.

***

As always, Jolt readers are some of our favorite tipsters. Send your best scoop, gossip and insider info to patricia.murphy@ajc.com, tia.mitchell@ajc.com and greg.bluestein@ajc.com.