Does Trump still tower over the GOP? Georgia 2022

Does Trump still tower over the GOP? Georgia 2022

Back in 2020 there was a lot of pre-election excitement about Texas flipping blue. But on election day and onwards the attention turned to events in Georgia. Democrats hadn’t come within 5% of winning the state since the Clinton era (won in ’92, just lost in ’96) but Democrats won it by the narrowest of margins. Then, after both senate seats went to run-offs, they flipped them both too.

The reason was widely held to have been, in no small part, Stacy Abrams. The Democratic candidate for governor in 2018, she had fallen just short – a defeat she blamed in no small part on the fact that her opponent was also in charge of running the election*. Afterwards, she had spent every waking hour organising and registering Democrat voters in the state.

In 2022, Abrams is running again. But while her entry into the race has cleared the field in the Democratic primary it is far from certain she will get a direct rematch against Brian Kemp, the man who beat her four years ago.

The Trump Card

Kemp’s problem is simple: That very narrow defeat Donald Trump endured in 2020. After the votes were counted but before the result was formally certified, Trump put all the pressure he could on Georgian officials to try and ‘find’ some votes (his word). Whatever Kemp’s behaviour in 2018, he did not assist in these efforts (in particular, the doomed lawsuits which were filed by Trump and his allies).

Showing his customary loyalty, Trump turned on Kemp and publicly called for him to resign. He has since held rallies in the state aimed openly at attacking the incumbent Republican governor**.

Trump has also endorsed a replacement, former Senator David Perdue (one of the other losing candidates in 2020). Perdue says that he would not have certified the election result had he been in charge.

Despite this, and Trump’s enduring popularity among the Republican faithful (a sizeable majority of whom believe the 2020 election was stolen), Perdue has remained stubbornly behind in the primary polls. While some early polls showed Perdue leading once voters were told about Trump’s endorsement, as the word has gotten around that hasn’t bourne out. One recent poll showed 72% of likely voters aware of the endorsement – but Kemp leading 48-33 (and even leading 48-38 among the aware subgroup).

Not only has Perdue failed to lead a single poll, his fundraising has been deeply underwhelming. Kemp’s war chest of almost $13m dwarfs Perdue’s fund of under $1m by literal orders of magnitude. While I’m skeptical of the direct impact of big spending on elections in the US (just ask President Hilary Clinton, and Senators Beto O’Rourke, Jaime Harrison, and Amy McGrath) a gap of this magnitude does indicate that Perdue isn’t impressing the GOP donors who like to back winners.

General Orders

Of course, Georgia isn’t Texas. Either Kemp or Perdue could win the primary but lose the general election. And indeed, some say the bitter primary battle will make it harder to get GOP voters to turn out in November.

Sadly for Stacy Abrams, I am doubtful her narratively-superb comeback story will have a happy ending. She’s a bit closer to Kemp in the (general) polls than Perdue is (in primary ones), but she shares his fate of being behind in every one. And while 2018 and 2020 were very good years for the Democrats overall, 2022 looks to be a much tougher national environment for them.

Bookies have Brian Kemp as favourite for the general election but odds against due to his primary challenge (except for Betway, who rather boldly have Abrams as 8/11 favourite). I think that’s right, and that he’s actually a stronger favourite than he’s getting credit for on both 24th May and, should he win the primary, November 8th when he’s face Abrams again. I wouldn’t take him at evens, given he has two hurdles to clear, but either Betway’s 7/4 or Betfred’s 13/8 are value in my eyes.

*For the record, my view on this is actually quite similar to Abrams’: It is far from clear she would have won had Kemp recused himself from the electoral decisions, but it is an awful conflict of interest for the system to allow and there is good reason to believe he made those decisions with a strong partisan bent.

**Incidentally, Kemp says he’d still endorse Trump in 2024.

Pip Moss posts on Political Betting as Quincel. He has bets on Brian Kemp being re-elected at roughly 6/4. You can follow him on Twitter at @PipsFunFacts

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