Aha. So that’s why David Perdue decided not to spend more money on this race.
Until last night, there had been no new public polls of Georgia since May 1. But the internal polling no doubt continued apace behind the scenes, leaving us to guess what trends the two campaigns were seeing privately. It wasn’t hard to guess, though. Trump antagonists like Doug Ducey, Chris Christie, and Mike Pence are spending political capital in Georgia this week by campaigning with Kemp while Perdue’s patron, Donald Trump, is nowhere to be found.
The Fox poll confirms what we already sort of knew: This is going to be an unexpected blowout, probably the single biggest humiliation Trump has experienced in a Republican primary of any sort.
I stand by what I wrote last night, that this year’s races so far have only confirmed how tight his grip is on the party. His endorsement record isn’t perfect but even the candidates whom he hasn’t endorsed have emphatically endorsed him. The closest thing to an anti-Trump success in any election was Matt Dolan finishing nine points behind J.D. Vance in the Ohio Senate primary. And Dolan wasn’t anti-Trump; he even pledged to vote for Trump in 2024 if he’s the Republican nominee. He was simply a bit more skeptical about “stop the steal” than other GOP candidates claim to be.
All of that said, if Kemp ends up doubling up Trump and Perdue in Georgia next Tuesday it’ll be an eyebrow-raiser. It was imaginable at the start of the race that he might edge out Perdue, a lackluster campaigner, thanks to the advantages of incumbency. It was *not* imaginable, at least for me, that a guy whom Trump has spent the past 16 months demagoging for abetting Biden’s “theft” in 2020 would waltz to victory.
The lesson, I guess, is that if you’re an incumbent with a solid conservative record, voters are willing to ignore Trump’s grudge against you — provided you’re not actively antagonizing him day to day. (Sorry, Liz Cheney.) That bodes well for some of the House Republicans who voted for impeachment last year, albeit not all.
Sixty percent of Republican voters prefer Kemp, while 28% go for Perdue (it was 50% vs. 39% in March). Another 8% support either Kandiss Taylor (6%), Catherine Davis (1%) or someone else (1%). Only 3% are undecided…
In December, former President Donald Trump endorsed Perdue, but just 37% say the backing makes them more supportive of the former senator – and this group prefers Perdue by 25 points. On the other hand, 24% say the endorsement makes them less supportive of Perdue, and they break for Kemp by 79 points…
When it comes to what is important to voters at the ballot box, 65% say it’s extremely important their candidate “can win against the Democrat in November” and those voters break for Kemp by 36 points…
While majorities of Republican voters have favorable opinions of both Kemp and Perdue, Kemp is more popular by 16 points: 72% are favorable of Kemp (26% unfavorable) while 56% are of Perdue (39% unfavorable).
It’s interesting that a quarter of Republicans in Georgia say that Trump’s endorsement makes them less likely to vote for Perdue, not more. I wonder if there are some lingering hard feelings there from the Georgia Senate runoffs last year, where Trump’s “rigged election” conspiracy theorizing probably cost Republicans two seats by suppressing MAGA turnout.
Or maybe there’s just a surprisingly large contingent of Georgia Republicans who describe themselves as “moderate.” Dig into the crosstabs and you’ll find that among self-described conservatives, 42 percent say Trump’s endorsement makes them more likely to support Perdue versus 19 percent who say it makes them less likely. Among moderates, the split is … 11/53.
Trump’s overall favorability among Georgia GOPers remains strong at 78 percent but his influence over those who like him has waned a bit. In March, those who are strongly favorable to Trump preferred Perdue by 13 points. Now they prefer Kemp by 12 points. Hmmmm.
Is there a “Stacey Abrams factor” to Kemp’s surge, maybe? The closer we get to November, the more Republicans in Georgia will prioritize the general election over the primary. And Kemp has a possibly insuperable advantage over Perdue in that regard, having defeated the formidable Abrams once before in 2018 while Perdue fell short against the underwhelming Jon Ossoff. If your top priority as a Republican voter is defeating Abrams — and it should be — you’d be a fool to gamble on Perdue.
Why didn’t Pennsylvania Republicans feel that way about their own gubernatorial race? you may ask. Good question. Nominating Doug Mastriano is … not the hallmark of an electorate whose top priority is maximizing its chances in the general election. All I can think is that Kemp’s incumbency made the difference. In Pennsylvania, Republicans may have been more willing to roll the dice because they’re not “losing” anything if Democrats win in November. Dems already control the governor’s office there. Whereas in Georgia, fumbling away the election to Abrams means you’re not just losing a powerful office you already hold, you’re losing it to a progressive rising star with national ambitions. Loss aversion — it’s real and it’s spectacular.
I’ll leave you with a few Georgia Republicans dunking on Joe Biden. Exit question: Does the Fox poll ensure that Trump won’t do any last-second campaigning for Perdue in Georgia? Why would he show his face there and remind voters who’s responsible for Perdue’s failed campaign knowing that Kemp will be spiking the football on Tuesday night?