The 2022 Republican midterm primary season rolls on, and like a chipmunk stuck in the waffle of a truck tire, Donald Trump rolls with it. The former president’s days since his defeat two Novembers ago have been tinged with a seething taste for vengeance: He has spent most of his time handing out his endorsement to any and all GOP office-seekers who might knock off those who refused to back his play when he tried to overthrow the government. Now, with the midterm primaries underway, those tickets are coming due.
Trump had a decent go of it last week; a number of his horses finished in first place across the country, firming up the impression that he is in command of the party, and that his touch remains Midas-like with the base. Not everything came up sunshine and roses, however, and mixed in with the victories were more than a few humiliating defeats.
Madison Cawthorn, the Trump-endorsed North Carolina representative with a seemingly bright future on the Hot 100 Fascists tour, transformed into a one-man Animal House toga party seemingly overnight, losing his primary so decisively that he didn’t even qualify for a run-off. In bellwether Pennsylvania, Trump’s Senate pick — TV celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz — appears to be losing an exceedingly close count to his opponent, David McCormick. By Saturday evening, Trump was flipping out on his new social media platform — “ARE WE A THIRD WORLD NATION??? Are we becoming Venezuela (YES!).” — and on Sunday, he all but ordered Oz to declare victory and call it a day.
Trump has had a week to let the swelling go down from those setbacks. But Georgia Republicans are holding their primary tomorrow, and nowhere in the nation has Trump so firmly staked his kingmaker reputation than in the Peach Tree State. Why? Because for Trump, Georgia has become The House of the Rising Sun: “It’s been the ruin of many a poor boy / and God, I know, I’m one…”
Flash back to the glorious mayhem of November 2021: Joe Biden wins Georgia by about 12,000 votes, making him the first Democrat to win that state since God was a baby. Forever labeled “The Republican president who lost bright-red Georgia,” Trump’s uncontained fury spun up several new octaves. His cries that the elections were rigged became so motivating to the GOP base that a lot of them stayed home in protest.
This provided enough of a margin for Democratic Senate candidates Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock’s improbable dual victories that flipped control of the Senate away from the Republicans for the first time in years. With the House and White House likewise captured, Trump had just presided over the worst election rout since 1994, and boy howdy, did he blame Georgia for it.
Trump’s ire was specifically directed at Gov. Brian Kemp, a right-wing conservative straight out of central casting who nonetheless refused to push Trump’s stolen election narrative. Trump actively recruited David Perdue, who was still recombobulating himself after his runoff defeat at the hands of Jon Ossoff. After a long, hard sell by Trump, offset by friends and advisers who warned him to stay away, Perdue agreed to run against Kemp for governor.
… and unless something truly seismic happens, come Tuesday night, Perdue is looking at a margin of defeat wide enough to sail the Sixth Fleet through. “Mr. Perdue is staring down an epic defeat at the hands of Gov. Brian Kemp, the Republican whom Mr. Trump has blamed for his 2020 loss more than any other person,” reports The New York Times. “The Perdue campaign is ending the race low on cash, with no ads on television and a candidate described even by his supporters as lackluster and distracted.”
Trump has put some deliberate daylight between himself and the rapidly dissolving Perdue, going so far as to cancel an event meant to support his campaign, but everybody and their dog down in Georgia knows exactly what this means: total, abject humiliation for the former president. If it happens like it seems it will, this one will leave a big, broad mark.
A whole new world of trouble may be opening up for Trump, if Georgia becomes a trend instead of an outlier. After so many long years of servile obeisance, it appears at least some Republicans have decided it’s better to die on their feet. The Washington Post reports:
The RGA [Republican Governors Association] invested some $5 million in Georgia, according to a person familiar with the group’s outlays, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive details. A parade of Republican governors and luminaries have lined up to protect Kemp. And former vice president Mike Pence, who once served as governor of Indiana, will appear with Kemp on Monday — setting the stage for Pence’s most direct confrontation yet against Trump in the midterms.
“This is just not the best use of our money. We would much rather use it just in races against Democrats,” said former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who is the co-chair of a 2022 fundraising arm for the RGA and described the November meeting in Phoenix to The Post. “But it was made necessary because Donald Trump decided on the vendetta tour this year and so we need to make sure we protect these folks who are the objects of his vengeance.”
Pence at a Kemp rally, eh? I’d pay some long green to be in the room with Trump when he sees that number.
Still, all the schadenfreude in the world to be derived from watching Trump squirm doesn’t change the fact that Kemp continues to be horrible, and the enemies of our enemies are — as ever — not necessarily our friends.
Case in point, again from the Post: “In this year’s legislative session, Kemp has signed laws appealing to conservative voters on a variety of issues, including measures that permit the carrying of a firearm without a license, add restrictions on the teaching of race, history, gender and sexuality in classrooms, and ‘the toughest abortion bill in the country,’ in the governor’s words. The bill bans an abortion after a doctor can detect what they call ‘a fetal heartbeat in the womb,’ usually at about six weeks, before many women know they are pregnant.”
It’s nice to see Trump stepping on rakes in public, but if you’re a Democrat in Georgia, you probably wanted Perdue to pull this one out. Kemp is awful, Perdue is awful, they’re all awful … and waiting in the general election wings is Stacey Abrams, who would have likely found Perdue to be an easier opponent than Kemp.
For now, at least, that’s all in the wind. Always, always push back against Trump and his acolytes, but never forget that the only thing separating people like Trump from people like Kemp is Trump’s towering ego, and Kemp’s unwillingness to tell one lie. Not much daylight between.