When I say “writing off,” I don’t mean un-endorsing him. Trump is still campaigning for Perdue, including doing a tele-rally for him on Monday to mark the start of early voting in the primary. He’s not giving him the Mo Brooks treatment.
By “writing off,” I mean resigning himself to the fact that Perdue’s unlikely to win this race no matter what Trump does to try to save him. The year-long effort to oust Brian Kemp from office may have already fizzled, weeks before it approaches the finish line.
If I were Perdue, I’d treat this quote as a sneak preview of what my summer is going to be like. When the time comes for MAGA fans to apportion blame for this defeat, we all know who will and won’t have fingers pointed at them:
Advisers to Mr. Trump predict that he will simply dismiss any losses and instead highlight the races his candidates have won, as has generally been his practice. For instance, he withdrew his endorsement of Representative Mo Brooks in Alabama’s Senate race when it became clear Mr. Brooks’s campaign was sputtering.
“Remember, you know, my record is unblemished,” Mr. Trump said in an interview with The New York Times on Thursday. “The real story should be on the endorsements — not the David Perdue one — and by the way, no race is over.”
Perdue is his most prominent endorsement of the entire cycle! Even Liz Cheney’s Trump-backed opponent, Harriet Hageman, hasn’t enjoyed as much hype from Trump as Perdue has. I think Kemp gets under Trump’s skin to a degree no one else does because, unlike Cheney, Kemp arguably owes his office to Trump’s intervention. Perdue even taunted Kemp about that at last night’s debate, telling the crowd that the worst mistake he ever made was convincing Trump to endorse Kemp over Casey Cagle in the 2018 GOP gubernatorial primary. That may put Kemp’s “betrayal” in 2020 in a special category in Trump’s mind. Whatever else one might say about Cheney, she didn’t need Trump’s help to climb the ladder of Republican politics only to refuse to overturn the election for him later.
The rest of the debate went just as you’d expect, incidentally. “If you beat Jon Ossoff, why are you not a U.S. senator?” Kemp asked Perdue at one point, responding to his claims that he was the true winner of his Senate race. “Because you let him steal the election, governor,” Perdue predictably responded.
The man knows his target audience. Give him that.
And in fairness to Perdue, he has a solid excuse for his impending defeat. It really is hard to beat an incumbent governor, a point Trump made recently to try to excuse Perdue’s poor performance but which has the virtue of being true. Care to guess how many Republican governors have lost primaries in the 21st century? Per the Times today, just three. Not only is Trump’s guy losing in Georgia, his candidates are also trailing incumbents in Alabama, Georgia, and Idaho. He may take an “ohfer” this year in gubernatorial races, never mind his supposedly “unblemished” record.
Populists are trying to figure out where it all went wrong, especially in Georgia:
Bannon is trying to figure out how David Perdue can be 27 points down in GA with Trump’s endorsement. Guest says it’s because he isn’t talking about ‘election fraud’ enough. “Hopefully in the closing weeks he’s going to pull things out. I saw the same poll you did – I’m shocked.” pic.twitter.com/doLUos7SbZ
— Ron Filipkowski 🇺🇦 (@RonFilipkowski) April 28, 2022
Is it true that if Perdue had only talked more about election fraud he’d be sitting pretty against Kemp right now? Not according to a new poll from SurveyUSA, which has Kemp up 56/31. If anything, Perdue harping on 2020 may be making things easier for the incumbent.
In 11Alive’s polling, Perdue rates closer among self-identifying “very conservative” voters, though still not ahead of Kemp – with the governor leading among those voters 48-40%. Among “conservative” voters, Kemp leads 61-27% and 58-30% among “moderate” voters.
The results do show Trump’s influence on the race – among voters who identified “election integrity” as their top issue, Perdue wins 56-30%. However, only 5% of likely Republican primary voters polled by 11Alive named that their top issue. Nearly half – 44% – identified the economy as their top issue, and among those voters Kemp leads Perdue 59-28%. Kemp also wins big among the 11% of likely GOP primary voters who named crime their top issue – 68-19%.
Also, despite Trump’s endorsement of Perdue, those voters polled by 11Alive who voted for Trump in 2020 (87% of the likely GOP primary voting respondents) support Kemp 57-32%.
The single issue around which Trump and Perdue have based their campaign is a second-tier issue for *95 percent* of the GOP electorate. Not only that, Kemp’s big margins among voters who don’t identify as “very conservative” suggests that Perdue’s radicalism about election fraud might be alienating all but the most hardcore “stop the steal” Republicans. If Perdue loses there’s no doubt that Trump will try to retcon his defeat by claiming that he would have won if he’d spent more time whining about 2020, but don’t believe it. The data here says the opposite is true.
Never mind Perdue, though. The person who should be really worried by the SurveyUSA poll is Stacey Abrams. She trails Kemp head-to-head by five points (50/45) and even trails the lackluster Perdue by three (49/46). A second defeat in Georgia is going to throw quite a wrench into the “Stacey for president” machine.
I’ll leave you with this new ad from Kemp, who knows better than Perdue what Republicans really care about.