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Georgia Gov. Kemp poised for a big win Tuesday, but Trump's shadow looms large

Greg Bluestein, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in Political News

Trump blasted Kemp at four Georgia rallies in the last 18 months, directly intervened to help clear the primary field for Perdue, starred in ads attacking Kemp and spent $2.6 million from his PAC to promote the former U.S. senator's campaign. He's holding a final tele-rally for Perdue on Monday, the same day former Vice President Mike Pence will headline a Kemp event in Cobb County.

Georgia Republicans now wonder the lengths the former president will go to undermine Kemp in the general election — and whether that could hurt other Republicans on a ballot. Trump has already given a taste of how his ongoing hostility to Kemp could influence the November race.

At a September event in Perry, Trump said he'd rather see Abrams win than a second term for Kemp. And he predicted that U.S. Senate GOP hopeful Herschel Walker — who entered the race with Trump's blessing — would lose with Kemp at the top of the ticket.

"I think Herschel Walker is going to be very seriously and negatively impacted because Republicans that happen to like Donald Trump — MAGA Republicans — are not going to go and vote for this guy Kemp," Trump said on a call for Perdue this month.

That message served as a reminder that even Trump-endorsed candidates like Walker could be dogged by the former president's feud with Kemp. The former football star's expected matchup against U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock could decide control of the Senate.

The governor's allies acknowledge he'll continue to face pockets of dissension from within his own party even if he scores a runaway victory on Tuesday.

 

But they say his delicate approach to Trump offers a window into how he'll handle the former president during the general election campaign — and perhaps a blueprint for other Republicans on Trump's bad side.

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, an outspoken critic of Trump, said that Georgia is prepared to prove that the former president's endorsement is no longer a "golden ticket," much like it was when it helped power Kemp to a runaway 2018 runoff win.

"Every day there's more and more folks that have the confidence to walk out in front of what used to look like a freight train but now is just a matchbox car," he said.

'Time to unite?'

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(c)2022 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, Ga.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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