“Don’t believe the polling,” Kemp told a crowd Saturday near his hometown of Athens.
“Be excited about the momentum, but use that to encourage you even more to leave no doubt on Tuesday. And then on Wednesday, we will all unite on the mission to make sure that Stacey Abrams is not going to be our governor or our next president,” Kemp said in a short speech that name-checked Abrams half a dozen times.
The question, Republican operatives around the state say, is not whether Kemp can best Perdue on Tuesday but by how much. If Kemp can win an outright majority, he’ll avoid being forced into a runoff next month. And defeating Perdue decisively on Tuesday would also provide a moral victory for Kemp, who earned Trump’s contempt for resisting the former President’s pressure to overturn the 2020 election results.
Erick Erickson, a Georgia-based conservative talk radio host, said he thinks Kemp is headed for a big win over Perdue — a result that would indicate the limits of Trump’s obsession with 2020 among Republican voters.
“The margin of victory is shaping up to be so big (for Kemp) that we will, at least, be spared more claims of a stolen election and blessed with an early night,” Erickson said.
Carol Williams, a realtor in Athens who supports Kemp, dismissed Trump’s insults.
“Those comments are about himself, actually, not about the governor,” Williams told CNN on Saturday. “I think that the former President has no skin in the game in Georgia. He does not understand what’s best for our state.”
A troubled challenge
It was nearly a year after the one-term GOP senator had failed to win a runoff for a second term, but Perdue centered his campaign on the question of electability. His message was that only a Trump-backed Republican could hope to unite the party in the general election. Although he has found other issues to attack Kemp on — from rising crime to a new electric vehicle plant enticed by state tax incentives but opposed by some locals — Perdue’s closing argument has not swayed from that original premise.
“If we end up in a runoff, that means that more Georgians, Republicans, have voted against this governor than have voted for him. Let’s remember that. And my job is to consolidate that. That’s why I got in this race in the beginning,” Perdue said Friday at a campaign event in Savannah.
“It’s the reality of running against an incumbent governor,” this person said.
While Trump is aware of the campaign’s stumbles, his support for Perdue has not abated. In March, Trump held a major rally in Commerce, Georgia, to support Perdue and other Republican candidates he has endorsed. And Trump’s organization Save America has donated a total $2.5 million to pro-Perdue super PACs since April.
But since the March rally, Trump has not visited the state to boost Perdue, although he will call into a “tele-rally” for the candidate on Monday evening.
Lining up behind Kemp
“My message to you today is conservative leadership matters,” Ricketts told the crowd here in Watkinsville on Saturday, reciting a litany of accomplishments in Kemp’s first term, from a massive income tax cut to laws expanding gun carry rights and restricting abortion.
But the outside help has reinforced Kemp’s general election pivot to focusing on the Democratic Party.
“Brian Kemp is the only thing standing in between Georgia and having Stacey Abrams as your governor,” Christie said at a rally in Alpharetta, Georgia, on May 17. “We don’t want that, do we?”
Despite Trump’s and Perdue’s insistence that Kemp cannot win in November without the support of the “MAGA base,” the governor is confident that opposition to an Abrams win will be plenty to get out the GOP vote this fall.
“I think Stacey Abrams is a great unifier. I think every Republican in Georgia will be unified after Tuesday,” Kemp told reporters Saturday.