When former Sen. David Perdue launched a primary challenge to Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Monday, his announcement was notably light on policy. Perdue’s only concrete commitment was to eliminate the state income tax. Other than that, he rolled out some very soft, policy-less goals, such as making Georgia safer, taking charge of schools, and fighting President Joe Biden’s pandemic mandates.
Perdue’s one clear pledge to eliminate the state income tax arguably runs to the right of Kemp, who signed a modest tax cut into law earlier this year. But other than that, Kemp himself could have listed the same set of goals.
What Perdue spent the bulk of his message conveying were two themes: 1) that he, unlike Kemp, is a true Trump ally who will overturn elections on his behalf if necessary (Perdue never said this directly, but it was the clear implication); 2) that Democrats (the “woke Left”) and gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams are evil and must be stopped.
But as I noted yesterday, all eyes should be on the primary battle between Perdue and Kemp, one-time allies who will now rip each other to shreds in a primary showdown orchestrated by one exceedingly petty and thin-skinned Donald Trump.
“This will be the ugliest, nastiest race this state has ever seen,” said one Georgia Republican told the Washington Post. “It is hyper-personal on both sides. Friendships, very long friendships, will be ruined and never recovered over this.”
Huh, sounds like a civil war down there.
But what stood out most prominently about Perdue’s announcement was his emphasis on blaming Kemp for the party’s 2020 losses to Democrats and, in so many words, his repeated pledge that he would never “cave” to anti-Trump forces. In essence, the only real difference between Perdue and Kemp comes down to the fact that Perdue is committed to cheating for Trump, where Kemp didn’t in 2020. Again, Perdue implied this clearly enough without saying it outright.
“Unfortunately, today, we are divided, and Brian Kemp and (Secretary of State) Brad Raffensperger are to blame,” Perdue charged.
Kemp “has failed all of us and cannot win in November,” Perdue said.
“Instead of protecting our elections, he caved to Abrams and cost us two Senate seats, the Senate majority, and gave Joe Biden free rein,” Perdue explained regarding his own failure to win reelection to the U.S. Senate. “Kemp caved before the election, and the country is paying the price today,” Perdue added.
Though Trump was clearly to blame for the depressed GOP turnout that hobbled Georgia Republicans in January, Perdue presumably referenced a March 2020 federal court settlement allowing voters more time to correct problems with their absentee ballots in a case brought by the Democratic Party. Kemp had no hand in the settlement.
“If our governor was ever going to fight for us, wouldn’t he have done it already?” Perdue added.
There’s simply no way for Republicans to avoid a disastrous primary in a campaign that will be almost solely focused on Trump exacting revenge against Kemp and other Georgia Republicans rather than actual policy disputes.
The only real pledge Perdue was making was his commitment to turn his back on democracy if Trump runs and Democrats win the state again in 2024. That point should be lost on none of us.