Perdue now in a race against the clock
Trailing in fundraising and polling, former Senator running short on time to turn the tables
When former U.S. Sen. David Perdue announced in December that he would challenge Gov. Brian Kemp for the Republican nomination with the endorsement of former President Donald Trump, it was widely expected to be a hotly contested race between two of the state’s most prominent Republican leaders.
But with just one week left of early voting, Perdue is widely seen as an underdog in this month’s primary election. He has consistently lagged Kemp in polling. Many surveys taken in recent weeks have the former Senator hovering in the low 30s and high 20s, while the governor is surging past the coveted 50% runoff threshold.
Despite his ability to self-fund, Perdue is also facing limited financial resources. Campaign disclosures this week revealed that Perdue has less than $1 million to spend, far less than both Kemp and presumptive Democratic nominee Stacey Abrams.
Many Republicans are also beginning to forecast a resounding Kemp victory on May 24. Former U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler was back on Capitol Hill this week, where she discussed the Perdue/Kemp matchup in a lunch with her former colleagues.
“On Thursday, Loeffler was on Capitol Hill, lunching with Senate Republicans and discussing her efforts to engage voters in Georgia. Behind closed doors, Loeffler talked to senators about the Perdue and Kemp race, and told them that it appeared Kemp was on track to easily win outright and avoid a runoff, according to senators who spoke to her.”
The Georgia Republican establishment is also lining up behind the governor’s re-election campaign. On Thursday, Kemp earned the endorsement of Georgia House Speaker David Ralston. It’s quite a turnaround for both men, as their relationship got off to a pretty rocky start in the early years of Kemp’s term.
In addition to Ralston, Kemp has also been endorsed by nearly every Republican in the Georgia Legislature. This comes on the heels of what many observers are calling the most conservative legislative session in Georgia history. Bills that loosen gun restrictions, limit race discussions in classrooms, ban school districts from requiring masks and take aim at transgender athletes are just some of the conservative priorities that were passed this session.
While Republicans in Georgia seem largely unified behind Kemp’s re-election, it also puts them at odds with the national GOP apparatus — particularly the inner circle of former President Donald Trump.
As we know, Kemp has emerged as a favorite punching bag for the former President after the governor certified his narrow 2020 defeat in the Peach State. Ever since then, Trump has launched a personal mission to defeat Kemp and reshape the Georgia Republican Party ahead of the 2024 election.
Campaigning in the driver’s seat, Kemp is calling in major reinforcements ahead of election day. We learned on Friday that former Vice President Mike Pence will headline a get-out-the-vote rally with Kemp on Monday, May 23 — the eve of the primary.
The move is part of a larger rift between Trump and Pence. The two have distanced themselves from one another ever since the January 6 Capitol attack, when angry Trump supporters demanded the execution of Pence as he was certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election.
With his campaign struggling, Perdue has emerged as a champion of the former President’s lies about the 2020 election. In two of his debates with Kemp, he began his opening remarks by claiming that the 2020 election was “rigged and stolen.” He has even gone as far as to say that his loss to U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff (D) was also rife with fraud.
Aside from the 2020 election, Perdue has also been attacking the governor on the issue of public safety. He says that the Governor should push for a cityhood referendum in Buckhead, a wealthy enclave of Atlanta where rising crime numbers have left some residents on edge.
Kemp has touted a recent deal the state inked with Rivian, an electric vehicle manufacturer that is looking to build a new plant in East Georgia. Perdue has suggested that the deal is corrupt and that Kemp is “selling us out” to George Soros, the billionaire liberal megadonor who is a favorite subject of right-wing conspiracy theories.
With the Supreme Court likely to deal a major blow to abortion rights, Perdue has said that he would immediately call a special session of the state legislature to pass new abortion restrictions if the high court overturns the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. Kemp has also emphasized his anti-abortion stances, reminding voters that he signed one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the country.
Perdue’s race against Kemp is quickly turning into a race against the clock. With early voting now well underway, the former Senator has quite a daunting task ahead of him if he wants to try and change the narrative.
A Kemp victory would no doubt deal a setback to the former President in what has otherwise been a decent month for his endorsed candidates in other states. But given how much he has prioritized Georgia, a Perdue loss just might overshadow all of those victories.