From the Right



Why Georgia Gov. Kemp Tops the Polls Despite Trump's Bid to Take Him Down

Salena Zito on

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp says he is certain one thing won't happen before the Republican gubernatorial primary May 24: an endorsement from former President Donald J. Trump.

After Trump called him "a turncoat, a coward, and a complete and total disaster" in front of a crowd of supporters at a rally in Commerce, Georgia, last Saturday, Kemp is probably not wrong. And he said he is fine with that.

"I've never said a bad word about President Trump. And I don't plan on doing so. I appreciate what he did for our state," Kemp told me in an interview.

Kemp says his emphasis right now is on the present. "I'm staying focused on what my record is. I can't control what other people are doing. I'm looking for the endorsement of our voters and I believe I'll get that on election day."

Ever since Trump publicly blasted Kemp for refusing to overturn Georgia's 2020 election results -- results that were certified following three recounts -- many Georgians figured Kemp would be a dead man walking in this year's Republican primary race, especially if Trump backed someone else to run against him.

That's exactly what happened when Trump tapped former U.S. Sen. David Perdue to run against Kemp in the Georgia primary, which many presumed would catapult Purdue ahead of Kemp in the polls.


But polling for the past few months has steadily shown Perdue trailing Kemp by about 10 percentage points. The most recent Fox News Poll in March shows Kemp now up 11 points over the former senator.

The media have wildly underestimated Kemp's tenacity and appeal with voters. They also don't truly know what matters to people when they vote. They see Republican voters as frozen in time in a cultish allegiance with Trump, but in reality, they are much more complicated.

It is not hard to find Republican voters in Georgia who lean right and have also voted for Trump, Purdue, President Joe Biden and Kemp over a number of years. Voters are more complicated than the way they're framed by reporters or strategists.

Leland Sproul is one of them. The 33-year-old customer-training manager for a Fortune 500 company who lives in suburban Atlanta voted for Trump in 2016, cast a vote for Biden in 2020, and sat out voting for any of the U.S. Senate candidates -- Republican or Democrat -- that year.


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