by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The first contest of the Republican presidential primary is more than 18 months away. But if Tuesday’s primary in Georgia is any indication, the candidate who wins the most delegates in 2024 will be the one who looks forward to new challenges, not the one who looks backward to relitigate the 2020 presidential race.
No Republican officeholder has faced more wrath and condemnation from former President Donald Trump than Georgia Gov Brian Kemp. Trump first endorsed Kemp for governor in 2018 and therefore felt Kemp owed him in December 2020, when Trump had narrowly lost Georgia’s 16 electoral votes.
Trump bullied Kemp both privately and publicly, calling on him to use his “emergency powers” to stop the certification of the state’s election results, call a special session of the legislature, and appoint a Republican slate of electors. Kemp resisted Trump’s pressure at every turn, even after Trump called for Kemp to resign.
Not one to let a grudge go, Trump then recruited former Sen. David Perdue to run against Kemp in this year’s gubernatorial primary. Perdue ran on no issue other than Kemp’s refusal to ignore the lawful result of the 2020 election and appoint a fake slate of pro-Trump electors.
Kemp, meanwhile, had a strong conservative record to run on. Not only had Kemp signed a new voter integrity law that made it easier to vote and harder to commit voter fraud, but he had also passed bills that allowed Georgians to carry guns without permits and banned abortion after a fetal heartbeat could be detected.
The choice Tuesday for Georgia Republicans was clear: an incumbent governor who had faced down the Democratic Party and its corporate allies to deliver real election, Second Amendment, and pro-life legislative wins — or a former senator whose only qualification was that he would unquestionably do whatever Trump told him to do.