I was going to headline this post “MAGA Waterloo” in honor of Brian Kemp’s looming victory in the gubernatorial primary but I don’t think that fits.
It’s not really MAGA Waterloo unless Brad Raffensperger also wins his primary for secretary of state. Tim Miller frames the stakes in that race:
This is the most interesting race of the night. During and after the coup attempt, Brad Raffensperger was towards the top of Trump’s blood atonement kill list, because of his steadfastness in defending the Georgia election system. For his defense of our democracy, Raffensperger was rewarded with a primary from Jody Hice, a MAGA congressman. Hice is so committed to installing a Donald Trump autocracy against the will of the voters that he walked away from his congressional seat to run for the much less glamorous job of Georgia secretary of state.
Unlike governors, secretaries of state don’t do much that impacts people’s lives day to day. So this was more of a straight referendum on the Big Lie than anything else happening in Georgia.
Right, Kemp’s win can be spun a dozen different ways unrelated to Trump. He’s an incumbent, he made some popular moves (reopening early on COVID, signing the new election law), he lucked out by facing a Trump proxy in David Perdue who’s no one’s idea of a dynamic campaigner or fundraiser, and he has a scary Democrat in the form of Stacey Abrams on the other side of the ballot. All of that conspired to convince Georgia Republicans to stick with the status quo. The prospect of Gov. Abrams is too dire to waste a primary on settling Trump’s personal grudges.
But Raffensperger’s race is tricker. There are only two thing he’s known for in Georgia, refusing to “find” the votes Trump needed to win in 2020 and resolutely defending the new election law from Democratic attacks in 2021. He may have done enough on the latter to absolve him of his sins with the base on the former. And because Trump has focused his attacks on Kemp, Raffensperger has flown under the radar to some degree. His opponent, Hice, remains so little known that some Georgia voters believe he’s a she because his first name is “Jody,” Miller notes.
There may be a meaningful number of MAGAs who go to the polls today, consumed by the governor’s race, and check Raffensperger’s name on their ballot simply because he’s the incumbent and they haven’t given him any thought in a year. There’s no definitive polling out there, but the last survey I saw had him slightly ahead of Hice with a gigantic number of undecideds. Fifty percent is a key benchmark for Raffensperger tonight, though, since he and Hice will go to a runoff if he falls short. And because Kemp is likely to win his primary outright, that means Trump will be able to turn his full attention to Raffensperger when campaigning in Georgia ahead of that runoff. It may be now or never for the incumbent.
If he and Kemp both win outright this evening, it’ll be the biggest setback Trump has faced in a Republican primary since Iowa 2016.
The other intriguing storyline is in the Alabama Senate primary. Remember Mo Brooks? He spoke at the pre-insurrection rally on January 6 and earned Trump’s endorsement because of it. But Brooks underperformed earlier in the race; he was surpassed first by former Richard Shelby aide Katie Britt and then by Michael “Black Hawk Down” Durant. Faced with the prospect of his candidate finishing third in the primary and failing to make the runoff, Trump contrived a pretext to un-endorse Brooks, labeling him “woke” because he wanted to look forward in the next election rather than backward at 2020. Brooks was left for dead, his career in ruins.
A funny thing happened on the way to Primary Day, though:
Mr. Brooks has staged a compelling comeback, with recent polling putting him in a statistical tie for the lead in a tight three-candidate race ahead of the primary on Tuesday…
“Slowly but surely, conservatives are figuring out I’m the only conservative in this race,” Mr. Brooks said in an interview. He called Mr. Durant “a John McCain-type of Republican” and Ms. Britt “a Mitch McConnell-establishment, open-borders, cheap-foreign-labor, special-interest-group Republican.”…
A poll on Thursday for The Alabama Daily News and Gray Television showed likely voters who identified as “traditional conservative Republicans” favored Ms. Britt and Mr. Durant over Mr. Brooks.
But Mr. Brooks won the support of a plurality of voters who identified as “Trump Republicans” — 35 percent, up from 26 percent in an earlier survey.
Brooks currently stands in second place in the RCP average, six points behind Britt and three points ahead of Durant. Durant appears to have collapsed amid allegations that he has ties to the Lincoln Project, forcing disgusted MAGA voters who had previously shifted to him from Brooks to make a decision. Did they want to switch to the establishmentarian Britt or did they want to give Brooks, sans Trump endorsement, a second look?
Many seem to have opted for Brooks, vaulting him into second. And a second-place finish is just fine tonight since no candidate is expected to approach 50 percent, leaving the top two headed for a runoff. MAGA fans should be behind Brooks in that case; Durant has also said that he’ll endorse Brooks in the runoff if he ends up finishing third this evening. Which means Trump could soon face the dilemma of whether to throw in with McConnell’s favorite, Britt, or to swing back to Brooks and have to explain why he’s re-endorsing him after un-endorsing him after initially endorsing him.
Tough night for him, then, all in all. Two candidates whom he’s spent the past 16 months campaigning against are on the brink of winning in Georgia and another candidate whom he used to campaign *for* but then turned against might be headed for a strong showing regardless in Alabama.
There’s one other race worth watching, Marjorie Taylor Greene’s primary in Georgia’s 14th District. The suspense there has less to do with whether Greene will lose than whether the array of candidates she’s facing can combine to hold her below 50 percent and force her into a runoff. If it happens, it’ll probably be Jennifer Strahan who finishes second. And Strahan *might* be able to win a one-on-one race that’ll operate as a referendum on whether to give a candidate as nutty as Greene another two years in Congress. My gut says that Greene will top 50 percent tonight thanks to her insane fundraising advantage. Frankly, there’s no reason to believe the base prefers a Strahan-type to Greene at this point.
Polls close at 7 p.m. ET. Live results in three of the four races I’ve mentioned are embedded below. (Use the dropdown menu in the upper right corner of the Georgia House race widget to select the 14th District for Greene’s numbers.) Unfortunately, there’s no widget for Raffensperger’s secretary of state contest. For that, I recommend following the vote totals at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Georgia election page.