ICYMI: Gov. Kemp, Attacked by Trump, Still Supports Him

August 26, 2022

Attacked by Trump, top Georgia Republicans — including Kemp — aren’t ‘Never Trumpers’

After Donald Trump repeatedly attacked Gov. Brian Kemp throughout Georgia’s gubernatorial primary, Kemp remains supportive of the former president, saying he’d welcome Trump’s endorsement and signaling he’d support Trump in the 2024 presidential election.

But despite reveling in praise for not violating the law and aiding Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, top Georgia Republicans are trying to have it both ways when it comes to Trump and his supporters — and as noted by a new Atlanta-Journal Constitution report, “Gov. Brian Kemp is at the center of this tightrope act.

Knowing he’ll need Trump supporters to win re-election, Kemp is attempting to allow the notion that he’s “standing up to Trump” to prevail with certain voters, while signaling to other voters that he’s supportive of Trump, his agenda, and his potential presidential candidacy in 2024.

Read more from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Targeted by Trump, these top Georgia Republicans aren’t ‘Never Trumpers’

  • Although Trump treated some of Georgia’s top Republicans as traitors and unsuccessfully fought to unseat them in the May primary, the venom was almost entirely one-sided.
  • The four GOP incumbents who drew Trump-backed opponents each avoided swiping back at the former president even as they were branded as phony Republicans — or, in some cases, more derisive labels.
  • They continue to support Trump’s policies and [are] receptive to accepting his blessing in November’s election.
  • In short, even though they incurred the ex-president’s wrath, the leading Republican contenders on Georgia’s midterm ballot are not members of the “Never Trump” camp.
  • Gov. Brian Kemp is at the center of this tightrope act. The first-term Republican swept to victory in 2018 with Trump’s support but became a target of the former president after refusing to reverse the outcome of the 2020 election.
  • But as Kemp is quick to say when pressed, he’ll never utter a “bad word” about Trump. That extends to a favorite campaign trail story involving how he reopened segments of the economy in the first weeks of the coronavirus despite pushback from Democrats and the “national media” — strategically omitting the fact that one of the loudest critics of that decision was Trump.
  • “They wisely took the high road and avoided criticizing former President Trump while remaining supportive of his policies,” said Jeff Hood, a veteran political observer who comments on local elections for The Oconee Enterprise.
  • In doing so, Hood added, they avoided antagonizing Trump’s most loyal supporters and provoking a back-and-forth with the ex-president while abiding by what was once a GOP commandment: “Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican.”
  • Democrats say their rivals can’t have it both ways by clinging to Trump’s policies and refusing to criticize his actions while also soaking up praise for defying his attempt to invalidate millions of Georgia votes.
  • Asked at an event in Smyrna what’s the most surprising aspect of her rematch against Kemp, Stacey Abrams was blunt: “That people give him credit for not committing treason.”
  • It’s a theme she’s returned to since Kemp has tried to delay his testimony before a Fulton County special grand jury investigating Trump’s 2020 actions.
  • “Brian Kemp is a dangerous extremist who has tried to hide himself behind one good action,” Abrams added in a recent CNN interview. “He’s trying to play both moderate and MAGA, but he is just extreme.”
  • The former president raised eyebrows when he recently told Fox News he hasn’t ruled out endorsing Kemp, saying “we’ll be looking at everything.”
  • Kemp, too, remains open to accepting Trump’s support, saying that he wants “everybody’s endorsement” ahead of the Nov. 8 election. “The governor has consistently praised the accomplishments of the Trump-Pence administration and is appreciative of everything the former president and his team did for Georgia during very challenging times in our state and nation,” said spokesman Tate Mitchell.
  • As to whether Kemp would support a Trump comeback bid, Mitchell said: “Of course, the governor will support the Republican nominee in 2024 but is solely focused on making sure Stacey Abrams is never our governor — or the next president.”
  • “Brian Kemp is Donald Trump with a velvet glove. He’s enacted a far more conservative agenda than Trump ever could,” said David Brand, a veteran Democratic strategist. “He and the other statewide Republicans are not Never Trumpers,” Brand said. “But they are also far more effective than Trump ever was in the White House.”


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