Democrats have welcomed the GOP infighting between Trump-backed contenders and their Republican rivals.
“Trump’s increasing involvement in this primary is fueled more by his hatred of Kemp than support for Perdue — now, he’s coming to Kemp’s own backyard to taunt the governor as he continues trying to oust him,” said Max Flugrath, a spokesman for the Democratic Party of Georgia.
A major test of Trump’s clout
Perdue’s challenge hinges on Trump’s support. He invokes the former president at the start of every campaign stop and echoes Trump’s falsehoods about widespread election fraud costing him the 2020 election.
Trump filmed a direct-to-camera TV spot for Perdue that’s now airing statewide. And Donald Trump Jr. completed a statewide swing this week to boost the former senator’s campaign.
There’s plenty of reason for Trump to step up his commitment. Perdue’s campaign serves as one of the marquee tests of his influence, and he has vowed to defeat Kemp after the governor refused his demands to reverse his narrow 2020 defeat, something the governor has no power to do.
Trump also will hold fundraisers at his Mar-a-Lago resort next week for Perdue and Vernon Jones, the ex-Democrat who dropped out of the race for governor at the former president’s urging to run for a rural congressional seat.
The location of the rally is also significant. Commerce is at the heart of a rural northeast Georgia region that’s home to a trove of conservative voters. It’s also a key part of the 10th Congressional District, left vacant when Hice decided to challenge Raffensperger with Trump’s blessing.
The timing couldn’t be better for Perdue.
Several recent public polls show the former U.S. senator in a bind, including a Trafalgar Group survey that pegged Kemp at 49% to 40% for Perdue. Several of those polls also show a significant number of GOP voters aren’t aware of Trump’s endorsement.
Kemp has built an enormous fundraising advantage over Perdue, who reported less than $900,000 in his campaign account earlier this month and has yet to pump his own money into his campaign. The governor, by contrast, had a war chest of nearly $13 million in his most recent campaign finance report.
For the first time in its history, the Republican Governors Association has launched ads for an incumbent battling a GOP primary challenge, with a slate of TV spots this month that promote Kemp.
And Kemp is leveraging the raw powers of his office to counter Perdue, including recent moves to appoint a protégé of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to the state’s highest bench and clear the way for Sonny Perdue — David’s first cousin — to lead the higher education system.
Perdue has tried to peel off Kemp’s base by fighting the $5 billion proposed Rivian electric-vehicle plant east of Atlanta, which has sparked a grassroots opposition movement. And he’s emphasized his support for a stalled Buckhead cityhood push, eliminating the state income tax and a sweeping gun rights expansion.
But Trump’s endorsement remains at the center of his campaign, and Perdue highlighted the former president’s pivotal role as he welcomed the rally.
“Georgians are ready for a bold conservative who will fight the political establishment,” Perdue said, “instead of caving to radical liberals like Brian Kemp has done every step of the way.”