Pence and Trump hold competing rallies to boost rival Georgia GOP campaigns
Georgians head to the polls on Tuesday for the final day of voting in a primary election that doubles as a proxy battle for the future of the nation’s Republican party.
The eve of the election brought split-screen campaigning as former Vice President Mike Pence rushed for Gov. Brian Kemp in a Cobb County airport hangar. Shortly after Pence left the stage, former President Donald Trump staged a smaller show of support for Kemp’s challenger, former U.S. Senator David Perdue, during an 8-minute tele-rally.
“Elections are about choice, and tomorrow’s primary election comes down to this: who is best positioned to defeat Stacey Abrams and the National Democrats who descend on Georgia in this fall’s election,” Pence said Monday. .
“I heard that Stacey Abrams recently played the role of President in the new Star Trek series,” Pence said. “Well, fellow Republicans, we need to make sure Stacey Abrams is the closest we get to holding that title. And that starts with making sure Stacey Abrams never becomes governor of the great state of Georgia.
The former vice president’s Monday visit was intended to help rally Kemp’s supporters to the polls on Election Day. But his return to Georgia politics has also underscored the deep division within the national party as the 2024 presidential election looms on the horizon. Pence did not rule out a potential race for the White House.
Georgia’s closely watched primaries are widely seen as a referendum on Trump’s lasting hold on the party. Trump waded through Georgia politics well, endorsing 13 primary candidates; his Save America PAC gave at least $500,000 to an anti-Kemp super PAC.
Trump has been obsessed with Georgia since the state narrowly endorsed President Joe Biden in 2020, and he focused on Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger when they refused to help overturn the results elections. He also backed Raffensperger’s main challenger, U.S. Representative Jody Hice, who opposed the 2020 election results.
“Brian Kemp is really embarrassing to the Republican Party because of what happened in your great state of Georgia,” Trump said at Monday’s tele-rally.
Perdue has been clear in recent debates that he believes the 2020 presidential election was “rigged and stolen” and has focused his campaign on backing Trump.
But Perdue is heading into Tuesday far behind in recent polls, suggesting Kemp could win the race on Tuesday. If there is a second round, it will take place on June 21.
Whoever wins will face Abrams, who only got 55,000 votes in 2018, while Georgia Democrats hope to build on the ballot box successes that helped elect Biden and flip two U.S. Senate seats, swinging control of the chamber to Democrats.
“We’re ready to show everyone that it wasn’t a fluke. It was not just an election cycle. And it wasn’t about Donald Trump,” said US Congresswoman Nikema Williams, who is also chairwoman of the Georgia Democratic Party.
Abrams took advantage of Pence’s visit to highlight a key part of his platform: “Even Mike Pence extended Medicaid in Indiana. Yet Brian Kemp refuses to extend Medicaid in Georgia. Why? Because #KempDoesntCareAbrams tweeted.
“I’m not mad at him”
The governor had planned to spend the final day of the campaign flying around the state with stops in Dalton, Columbus, Macon, Albany and Augusta. But he stuck to a virtual press conference with reporters due to bad weather.
New polls show Kemp has a strong lead over Perdue heading into Election Day. A Landmark Communications Survey signaled a 30-point gap between the two, with Kemp drawing 60% support. that reflects a Fox News poll which came out last week.
A separate poll, this one one from Fox 5 Atlanta, found Kemp with 52% support. Candidates need 50% of the vote to avoid a runoff in Georgia.
“I just want to remind everyone, hey, let’s vote. Don’t believe the polls. The only poll that matters and the only poll that matters is a poll of voters on Election Day,” Kemp told reporters.
Perdue spoke out against the unfavorable poll Monday at a press conference in Dunwoody where he got combative with reporters. He specifically called Fox News’ survey a “suppression poll” that likely missed inconsistent voters who contributed to the record early voting turnout.
“That’s why this poll was full of bullshit,” he said.
And when asked if he would accept Tuesday’s election results, Perdue quickly replied, “It depends on whether there’s fraud or not.”
Perdue has argued that Kemp’s re-election bid is doomed because he says Trump’s support is critical to rallying enough Republicans to the voting booth to beat Abrams in the fall.
The governor has campaigned on his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic as well as a series of nice bills he’s signed into law, like one eliminating the requirement to have a license to carry a concealed firearm.
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And he has tried to play down any split within the Republican Party in the wake of the Trump presidency.
“I wouldn’t tell people to read too much about it,” Kemp told reporters on Monday. “I had a great relationship with Mike Pence. I had a great relationship with President Trump. I never said anything bad about him. I don’t plan on doing that,” Kemp said Monday morning .
“I’m not mad at him. I think he’s just mad at me, and that’s something I can’t control,” he added.
Georgia Recorder Senior Reporter Stanley Dunlap contributed to this report.