Brian Kemp cracked the Trump code for Republicans, won

ATLANTA — Pay attention, elected Republicans, both local and national. And open your ears, GOP voters are wondering where your party has been since 2016. Also, center-right family members with that crazy uncle who keeps coming on Thanksgiving, this one’s for you.

You have to pull out your pencil to map out the feat Brian Kemp engineered in Georgia when he quickly backed down from David Perdue’s challenge early on election night and sought to keep the Republican Party intact heading into November.

Perdue conceded early and gracefully on Tuesday night.

“I just called the governor and congratulated him,” Perdue said. “I fully support Brian Kemp.”

After being the subject of the most intense and sustained hell that former President Donald Trump has had to deliver – Kemp has always found a way to appeal to enough Donald Trump supporters to secure a primary victory in a state where he needs everyone.

Through a combination of substance, strategy, and self-control, Kemp may have blazed a trail for others to follow.

Let’s take the last piece of Kemp’s playbook first, self-control, because no matter what Trump said about the governor after Kemp refused to help overturn Georgia’s 2020 election results, Kemp never hit back at Trump.

Could you sit on your hands when someone called you a “loser” in front of tens of thousands of people, as Trump said of Kemp? Or a “disaster”, a “RINO”, weak and the worst governor in America?

What about when Trump tried to goad Doug Collins, then brought in Perdue, to stage a primary against Kemp? Or says Stacey Abrams would make a better governor than him?

In Republican circles, these are low blows. But in response, all the former president got was crickets from Kemp-world, which only made him more furious.

But there was a strategy behind Kemp’s silence. By never saying a side note about Trump, he also never insulted Trump voters. They would have taken any insult to him as an insult to all of them. But Kemp never gave them any.

The second leg of the stool for Kemp, beyond self-control as far as Trump is concerned, has been a heavy dose of substance.

Kemp has used the levers of power at the state Capitol to distribute freebies to voters of all political stripes, especially in this election year.

The first basket went to Trump’s conservative base – an electoral overhaul so wide that Major League Baseball packed the All-Star Game and sent it to Colorado.

And for the gun crowd, a bill to spare them the hassle and background checks that were once required every five years to carry a gun. A transport license is no longer required in Georgia.

And for the Right-To-Lifers, Kemp signed the state’s six-week abortion ban.

With such a conservative record, Perdue really had nowhere to campaign beyond election plots.

The final ingredient for Kemp was a two-step strategy. While they pushed a conservative enough message to keep Ralph Reed back for more, Kemp and his team still looked to November, too.

In addition to the still bleeding red meat, Kemp also signed a sweeping tax cut that the GOP leadership pushed, but the governor will get credit for anyway.

He also promised and delivered a $5,000 raise for every teacher in the state, along with a pay raise for every state employee, including many Democrats, and a tax waiver. on gasoline that only lasts after primary day.

With another election possibly on the horizon, talks are already underway to extend the gas tax suspension even further.

For 40 days after the Legislature closed for the year, Kemp had bill-signing ceremonies piled onto his schedule like airplanes on a runway around the state.

The test for Kemp is now fully reset with Stacey Abrams and the Democrats expecting her in November.

Not only has this group of Democrats seeded the state for party victories in Georgia over the past two years, they have embraced a progressive message as the state has grown bigger and even more diverse. Georgia has added 400,000 residents since Abrams lost in 2018 by 55,000 votes — many of whom are the young and diverse voters most likely to be receptive to a progressive agenda this time around.

Add to that the abortion rights wildcard, suddenly on the table for the first time in the lives of an entire generation of Georgian women, and gun safety after the latest tragic school shooting, and you have a state where political control truly feels like it’s up for grabs.

One question we won’t be able to answer until November is whether die-hard Trump voters, the Stop-the-Stealers who are still so furious with Kemp that they voted against him on Tuesday, would return in November.

The news was pretty good at a “Bikers for Trump” event last week where Perdue took the stage after Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene.

It wasn’t Kemp’s people. But would they vote for him in November? Everyone I asked the question gave me the same answer.

“I will vote for anyone against Stacey Abrams.”

But that was a different story on Tuesday night after Perdue conceded but some of his supporters weren’t so ready to give up the fight.

“Let’s just say I don’t think it was a fair election,” Rich Thompson said. “We’ve been down this road before.”

Deborah Liev, a Cobb County Trump supporter, predicted that Kemp’s victory would now secure a Democratic victory in November.

“I’ll tell you right now, the Trumpsters, the hard-core Trumpsters, won’t be voting for Kemp.”

Kemp clearly has work to do before November. But the fact that he managed to play for the jump ball against Abrams after being targeted by Trump is its own kind of story — and it’s a story that Republicans around the country should and will pay attention to.

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