GEORGIA: Former President Donald Trump returns on Saturday to Georgia, the state that has served as ground zero for his baseless claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him and now will test his enduring influence over the Republican Party.
Trump has invested significant political capital in Georgia, endorsing a slate of statewide candidates in an effort to oust Governor Brian Kemp and his allies for failing to reverse the presidential results two years ago.
Georgia’s May 24 primary election will provide perhaps the clearest assessment yet of Trump’s ability to play kingmaker in the 2022 elections.
It will also offer an early measure of how Republican candidates attempt to strike a balance between Trump’s obsession with the 2020 election and national Republican leaders’ preference to focus on President Joe Biden’s record in office.
“This is a really hard test for him – and a crucial one,” said Alan Abramowitz, a political science professor at Emory University in Atlanta. “Trump is still well liked by Republican voters, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are going to base their choice in a primary on his endorsement.” Trump’s heavy involvement reflects his frustration that Kemp, and other officials, refused to overturn the results in his favor. Biden won Georgia by less than a quarter of a percentage point, becoming the first Democrat to win the state in nearly 30 years.
Polls have shown Kemp holding a comfortable lead over Trump’s preferred candidate, former US Senator David Perdue, despite Trump’s frequent criticisms of the incumbent governor.
In addition to Perdue, Trump has endorsed US Representative Jody Hice, who is challenging Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. Raffensperger rejected Trump’s demand that he alter the outcome and declared the 2020 election fair and accurate after a series of audits and reviews.
Trump also endorsed down-ballot challengers for attorney general, lieutenant governor and even insurance commissioner, in each case siding with candidates taking on officials he blames for not fighting harder to substantiate his fraud claims.
“What we’re starting to see is that his endorsement does not appear so far to be giving the type of automatic bump to candidates that we’ve seen in the past,” said Amy Steigerwalt, a political science professor at Georgia State University.