In the last election cycle, Georgia was the Democratic Party’s crowning achievement. Not only did Joe Biden become the first Democrat to win the Peach State in the 21st century, but twin January Senate run-off victories gave the party their Senate majority.
Now as Dems seek to protect those gains in the 2022 midterms, competitive contests for the Governorship and one of those Senate seats means that Georgia will once again be a central battleground. Therefore, it’s far past time to dive in and get a sense of the state of the races.
Trump Proxy War Dominates Gubernatorial Primary
Kemp’s problems stem from his refusal to aid Donald Trump’s crusade to overturn Georgia’s 2020 presidential results. That decision put the Governor squarely in Trump’s sights, as the former President seeks to take revenge against every Republican who stood in his way during the transition.
As part of that initiative, Trump recently cut a TV spot endorsing Perdue.
“The Democrats walked all over Brian Kemp,” Trump asserts in the ad. “He was afraid of Stacey ‘The Hoax’ Abrams. Brian Kemp let us down, we can’t let it happen again.”
A recent Quinnipiac Poll indicates that these efforts are indeed taking a toll on Kemp. The survey found that the Governor held just a seven point lead over Perdue, 43% to 36%, among likely Republican voters. That advantage falls to just three points, 41% to 38%, among very conservative respondents.
How impactful was Trump’s endorsement? Well, 44% said the former President’s support made them more likely to vote for that candidate, while just 5% said they were less likely and half felt it made no difference. Additionally, Kemp’s favorable-unfavorable split among Republicans (70-22) was considerably worse than Perdue’s (77-7).
Furthermore, while Kemp does better than Perdue in a head-to-head match-up with Abrams, the difference is within the margin of error. Kemp leads Abrams 49% to 47%, whereas Perdue and Abrams are tied at 48% apiece.
Abrams, by the way, is running unopposed in the Democratic primary and taking this opportunity to raise cash for the fall. Last week, Abrams announced that her campaign brought in $9.5 million since she officially entered the race in December.
Despite her head start, Abrams will nevertheless still have her hands full this year. After playing a critical role in turning Georgia purple, she became a leading Republican villain. As a result, expect conservatives throughout the country to pitch in and try to deny her the Governor’s mansion yet again.
We witnessed this phenomenon in just the past few days, when a photo of an unmasked Abrams with school-children rocketed around right-wing media before breaking through to the mainstream press. Over the next nine months, Abrams should expect to be the most scrutinized candidate in the country.
Warnock and Walker Set for Tight Senate Race
Meanwhile, over in the Senate contest, freshman Raphael Warnock is awaiting his Republican opponent for his third (and possibly fourth) general election of the last two years.
Right now, former pro football player Herschel Walker is far and away the front-runner in the GOP field. The aforementioned Quinnipiac Poll puts him at 81% among likely Republican primary voters, seventy-five points ahead of his closest challenger Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black.
The survey also found Walker with a slim 49% to 48% advantage over Warnock in a potential November match-up.
One dangerous sign for Walker, however, was the 30% of respondents who said they haven’t heard enough about him (he secured a 42% to 27% split among those with an opinion). Walker’s past is an opposition researcher’s dream and there’s no way to know beforehand if he can handle the emotional rigors of an intensive fall campaign.
On the other hand, Sen. Warnock’s favorable and approval numbers were the strongest for any official or candidate included in the poll. So while his 44/42 favorable/unfavorable and 47/40 approve/disapprove splits are far from extraordinary, they do indicate that he has a likability factor on his side.
Georgia’s primaries are set for May 24th, although that may not be the end of their primary season. As you no doubt remember, in Georgia the leading candidate needs to get a majority of the vote in the first round or else a run-off will be necessary. It’s quite possible, for instance, that the Kemp-Perdue contest will need just such a run-off. In that case, their final face-off will be held on June 21st.