Why David Perdue is confident he can oust Brian Kemp

Georgia Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp, center, walks with President Donald Trump, right, and Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga) as Trump arrives for a rally Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018, in Macon, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

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Georgia Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp, center, walks with President Donald Trump, right, and Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga) as Trump arrives for a rally Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018, in Macon, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

It’s not just Donald Trump’s endorsement that has former U.S. Sen. David Perdue and his advisers optimistic about his divisive primary challenge against Gov. Brian Kemp.

An internal poll conducted by Perdue’s campaign showed the two Republican rivals deadlocked in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup before voters were told Perdue won Trump’s blessing.

The survey, released Monday by GOP pollster Fabrizio, Lee & Associates, pegged Perdue at 47% and Kemp at 44% -- within the margin of error of 3 percentage points.

You can find it here.

When informed of Trump’s endorsement, Perdue takes a 56-34 lead over Kemp in a head-to-head matchup and has a 46-32 edge in a full ballot. Other candidates, including Vernon Jones and Kandiss Taylor, are in the single-digits. About 11% of GOP voters are undecided.

Such internal polls should always be considered with skepticism, not least because they are provided by the campaigns to show the candidates in a favorable light. This one involved 800 likely GOP primary voters contacted between Dec. 7-9.

Still, the Perdue poll echoes a recent public survey that indicated a tight race. It also reflects the mood of campaign operatives who view the contest, at least in the opening days of the contest, as a tossup.

Not surprisingly, Kemp’s campaign had a rosier outlook. His aides on Monday released an internal poll from American Viewpoint that was conducted Dec. 1-6 – almost entirely before Perdue entered the race. It showed Kemp with a 54-22 lead over Perdue.

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Experts, voters say Georgia's governor race will be intense

Experts, voters say Georgia's governor race will be intense

Combined ShapeCaption
Experts, voters say Georgia's governor race will be intense

That poll also showed the power of the former president’s endorsement. After voters were informed about Trump’s pick in the race, Kemp’s lead shrank to 43-39. His camp takes solace that their poll, at least, shows a close contest after Perdue leveraged his biggest advantage.

“While the primary will undoubtedly be competitive,” the Kemp pollster concluded, “Governor Kemp is well-positioned to win in May.”

You can find it here.

Perdue shook up an already fraught environment for Georgia Republicans last week by joining the race for governor, saying he was the only Republican who could beat Democrat Stacey Abrams. Compounding problems for the GOP, Abrams faces no credible opposition from her side of the party aisle.

The dueling polls offered a glimpse at the campaign strategies that will shape the 2022 race.

Kemp’s poll, for instance, noted that Kemp’s strongest approval ratings involved his handling of the economy, with 87% of likely GOP primary votes giving him favorable reviews. Overall, it found his favorability ratings largely mirrored Perdue’s standing.

The Perdue survey, meanwhile, demonstrated why he’s emboldened to embrace falsehoods about election fraud in 2020. Since entering the race, he’s highlighted conspiracy theories, including filing a lawsuit that repeats unproven allegations about Fulton County’s ballot-counting process.

It found that only 7% of Republican primary voters say they believe President Joe Biden won an election that was “fair with no fraud or irregularities.” Nearly two-thirds of respondents – 63% -- said they agreed that the “election was stolen from Donald Trump through widespread election fraud.”

There’s no evidence of election fraud in Georgia’s election. Three separate tallies and multiple investigationsupheld Biden’s victory. More than a dozen pro-Trump lawsuits seeking to overturn the Georgia election results were tossed by judges or withdrawn by the former president’s loyalists.