Perdue's opening to first Georgia debate with Kemp: The 2020 election was rigged and stolen

“Major takeaway from Kemp/Perdue brawl: It was [Stacey Abrams’s] best debate yet,” tweeted one reporter who covered last night’s event for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. It was apparently nasty all the way through, which is just what the doctor ordered if you’re a Democrat hoping for a divided Georgia GOP and lower Republican turnout this fall.


Perdue set the tone with his first words of the evening, which led to him and Kemp bickering over the 2020 election for — no joke — 23 minutes. “I’ve never seen such raw hatred in a debate on the state level,” one local GOP strategist said to the AJC. “It’s at the same level as those paternity test shows where the mom throws a chair at a man who swears he can’t be the father.”

But it makes sense that Perdue opened the way he did since there are no meaningful policy differences between him and his opponent. The primary is a referendum on whether an otherwise successful conservative governor should lose his job for no reason other than that he refuses to support Trump’s conspiracy theories about the election. Perdue is essentially Trump’s “stop the steal” campaign in human form. Why wouldn’t he start the debate with his best, i.e. only, pitch?

He argued that all of Georgia’s and America’s miseries flow from the fact that Kemp refused to ferret out phantom election fraud in his state, ensuring Biden’s victory and Perdue’s Senate defeat. (“The only reason I’m not in the United States Senate is because you caved in and gave the elections to Stacey and to the liberal Democrats in 2020.”) Kemp countered that many of America’s miseries actually flow from the fact that Perdue ran a crappy reelection campaign and lost to a nobody in the form of Jon Ossoff. That ensured Democratic control of the Senate, without which Biden’s first two years wouldn’t have been possible.


What he didn’t dare say was that part of the reason Perdue lost was because Trump’s rigged-election propaganda ended up convincing enough Georgia Republicans to boycott the runoff to make Ossoff’s victory possible. (Remember that Perdue got more votes than Ossoff did on Election Day 2020, narrowly missing a majority.) But he did get in one bruising shot that obviously applied to Trump even more so than to Perdue:

Perdue echoed Trump’s calls for a special session on Sunday. He also complained to the incumbent governor that there haven’t been any voter fraud arrests made in connection to the 2020 election.

“Weak leaders take credit when things go well, and blame someone else when it doesn’t,” Perdue said.

Kemp’s response: “Weak leaders blame everybody else for their own loss instead of themselves.”

Georgia Democrats loved every minute of it:

There were a few minor policy disputes onstage, with Perdue straining to maneuver to Kemp’s right on culture-war grounds. For instance, Kemp touted the fact that the electric truck company Rivian opened a plant in Georgia on his watch. Perdue’s counter: One of Rivian’s investors is George Soros, which means it’s a “woke company.” Do Georgia Republicans want their taxpayer dollars going to a company like that?


Given that Rivian’s factory is going to create thousands of jobs, I’m guessing … yes, probably? More from the Daily Beast:

At a campaign stop in Sandersville on a recent Thursday, Brant Kennedy, a minister, held up a pro-Kemp sign as the governor ticked through his actions on a number of conservative priorities, from guns and taxes to police and agriculture policy.

Like most Trump supporters, Kennedy is upset about the 2020 election. He’s supporting Rep. Jody Hice (R-GA), who is challenging Brad Raffensperger, the GOP secretary of state who became a villain simply for defending the state’s election system.

But Kennedy saw no reason for Perdue to run against Kemp—and said he wanted to “put a sock” in Trump’s mouth for continuing to bash Kemp and boost Perdue.

“Brian Kemp hasn’t been a good governor,” Kennedy argued. “He’s been a great governor.”

Kennedy told the Beast that if Abrams ends up winning in November and becoming governor, he’ll blame Trump. I wonder how many others will too. This is an intriguing national result from a new Echelon Insights poll:


Republicans are willing to indulge Trump almost anything but if they come away from the midterms believing that his vendettas ended up blowing winnable elections for the party then he may have more of a problem in 2024 than he thinks. If Kemp wins this primary — and he’s led in every single poll, with his lead growing over time — then Trump will face a dilemma. It’s unimaginable that he’d endorse Kemp in the general election after all of the acid he’s spewed at him, but if he doesn’t endorse him in the name of unifying the party against Abrams and Kemp ends up losing, that’ll be hard for Trump to spin. It’s one thing for him to carry out his grudges against the likes of Liz Cheney, who’ll certainly be replaced in office by a conservative Republican. That doesn’t cost Republican voters anything. It’s another thing for him to carry out his grudges and end up hurting those voters by saddling them with progressive governance for four years. It would be the ultimate proof that Trump prioritizes his interests over theirs, even after they’ve rejected his candidate for governor in a primary. He’d better be careful how he handles a Kemp primary victory.

He’s a little more from last night’s debate to give you the flavor.


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