One of Donald Trump’s bitterest Republican enemies is poised to win his party’s primary for Georgia governor on Tuesday, in a sign of the limits of the former president’s influence over the party.
Polls showed Brian Kemp with a commanding 20-point lead over his nearest challenger David Perdue ahead of Tuesday’s vote, according to RealClearPolitics, in a demonstration of the incumbent governor’s ongoing popularity among the state’s Republican voters.
A Kemp victory would be the biggest defeat yet for Trump in an otherwise mixed set of primary results. Some of the candidates he has endorsed have chalked up notable victories, such as JD Vance in Ohio and Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania.
But others have fallen short, such as Madison Cawthorn in North Carolina. Mehmet Oz, the daytime television star Trump backed for senator from Pennsylvania, is heading for a recount in his race against David McCormick, the former hedge fund boss.
As governor, Kemp resisted pressure from Trump after the 2020 election and certified the state’s vote for Joe Biden. That incident has been at the centre of a bruising campaign in which Trump accused him of being a “turncoat” and a “coward”.
Kemp spent Monday campaigning alongside Mike Pence, the former vice-president to whom Trump has also attached blame for his 2020 loss.
“I’ve had a great relationship with Mike Pence; I had a great relationship with President Trump,” Kemp said on Monday. “I’ve never said anything bad about him, I don’t plan on doing that.
“I’m not mad at him, I think he’s just mad at me. That’s something I can’t control.”
Perdue, the former US senator who secured Trump’s endorsement, spent the last stage of the campaign engulfed in a row over remarks he made on Monday about Stacey Abrams, the Democratic candidate.
“[She] said Georgia’s the worst place in the country to live,” he told his supporters about Abrams, who is black and has lived in Georgia since she was a teenager. Perdue claimed Abrams was “demeaning her race” with comments she made in 2018 that people should not have to go into agriculture or hospitality to earn a living.
Another Trump-endorsed Republican, Jody Hice, has been more competitive. A poll by Landmark Communications showed him with a one-point lead over Brad Raffensperger — who drew Trump’s ire by certifying Biden’s win in the state in 2020 — in the Republican primary for secretary of state.
The power of Trump’s personal endorsement is also being tested on Tuesday in Alabama, where Mo Brooks has staged a late rally even after losing the former president’s endorsement to be a candidate for Congress.
Brooks was polling a distant third two months ago, prompting Trump to withdraw his backing. But a poll from Emerson college earlier this month showed he had jumped 13 points and was now one of three candidates with a viable chance of winning.
Trump’s backing may prove more successful in Texas, however, where Ken Paxton looks set to beat George P Bush, one of the youngest members of the American political dynasty, in the race to become the Republican nominee for state attorney-general.
Paxton has backed Trump’s false claims to have won the 2020 election, and secured the former president’s backing. That appears to have dispelled any doubts caused by the securities fraud charges that were brought against him seven years ago, and the more recent accusations of bribery while in office made by several of his deputies, all of which he has denied.