Despite Trump’s threats, Kemp’s well-known challenger is nowhere to be found

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Kemp then moved to reopen Georgia from its COVID lockdown in April 2020 ahead of Trump’s public schedule. “I’m not happy with Brian Kemp, I can tell you,” Trump said at a press conference at the time.

But the real betrayal, in Trump’s mind, came when Kemp refused to intervene in his 2020 loss as Georgia president.

Trump called Kemp a “fool” and a “clown” on his Twitter feed set to “napalm”. He suggested that the governor would soon go to jail along with Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. He exclaimed that he wished he had never supported Kemp.

Worst of all, and the fate most feared by Republicans, warned Trump that he would be actively recruiting a major challenger against Kemp and did so at a rally in Valdosta on live television in December.

“Doug, do you want to run for governor in two years?” Trump asked Rep. Doug Collins at the time, to the roar of the crowd. “He would be a handsome governor.”

But six months later the crowds are gone, Trump is out of office, and while the former president is still hugged by Conservative Georgia voters, Brian Kemp is exploring the clear possibility that Jones could be the best Trump do against him can.

How on earth did he get here?

Republicans in the state point to a combination of factors that make running against Kemp an unattractive option for any Republican seriously considering their own future – regardless of who is trying to convince them to do so.

First and foremost is Kemp’s status as the incumbent Republican governor.

“There is no greater challenge in electoral politics than electing an incumbent governor,” said Chip Lake.

Lake knows what he is talking about as Doug Collins’ top advisor when Collins attempted to oust Senator Kelly Loeffler in 2020. He pointed to the high profile of the incumbent governors, the persistent power base and the ability to raise enormous sums of money.

Lake’s old boss, Doug Collins, is one of several high profile Republicans who failed to challenge Kemp. In the case of Collins, he is said to have been exhausted from the run against Löffler.

A fresher face in the mix was Senator Burt Jones, wealthy, ambitious, and ready to rise. But he, too, seems ready to announce that he’s running for lieutenant governor in place of the top job, even after previously hinting that the LG job wasn’t on his websites.

One obstacle for anyone looking to get into the race against the governor is Kemp’s surprisingly long-lasting poll numbers. According to a recent internal poll, 73% of GOP primary voters see him as positive compared to 19% who don’t.

This is less popular than Trump, but higher than anyone in the state, and the same data any hopeful Republican would see when deciding whether to challenge Kemp.

How did the governor manage to stay on the good side of three-quarters of the GOP voters, even after all the abuse Trump heaped on him?

“I think Brian Kemp did what Donald Trump can’t, and that is, despite being attacked, he rose up and didn’t fall into the gutter,” Martha Zoller, the longtime conservative radio host, told me.

On Zoller’s point, Kemp never stopped supporting Trump even after Trump stopped supporting him.

When asked by Fox News host Neil Cavuto in March whether he would support the president if he was the candidate for 2024, Kemp said “absolutely”.

“We won’t always get along, but I think the president deserves a lot of credit and he won’t go away,” he said.

While Kemp was clearly in hot water with Republicans after the 2020 election, and Zoller said he still had a lot to do to win them over, he passed Senate Bill 202 and scrapped with everyone from Coca-Cola to Major League Baseball subsequently shot in the arm for its chances of winning it back.

“All of these things happened and really made Brian Kemp look like a conservative leader, someone who stands up for the integrity of the election,” said Brian Robinson. “You gave him his best defense against the number one attack from his own party.”

The GOP strategist added, “I think the most enlightening aspect of this is that the idea of ​​a serious key challenge for Kemp right now has no name. The only name attached is President Trump. “

Unsurprisingly, Vernon Jones’ camp disagrees with these assessments, arguing that the lack of another name in the race is not a sign that Trump cannot make anyone better, but that Jones is the man for the job.

“Given that no one took part in this race, it is very clear that Vernon has really shown that he is the candidate to really carry on the Trump cloak in this state,” said spokesman CJ Pearson, adding that a Democrat Republican managed to win the White House in 2016, so why couldn’t it happen in Georgia in 2022?

Much can and will change before this race is set – others can join, Trump could support Jones, everything goes as it seems these days. And going up against any Democrat in the fall will have its own hurdles.

But one fact is clear: much of Donald Trump’s power is based on threats and what-ifs, especially among GOP leaders.

What if he gets angry? What if he attacks you on Twitter? What if he chooses, worst of all, to face a major opponent against you, or at least try to?

Kemp seems “what if?” to “So what?”

Maybe there is no reason to be afraid of Donald Trump after all.

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