The president has repeatedly gone after Kemp, begging him to intervene to end what Trump has baselessly claimed to be irregularities in the state’s vote count. Trump complained on Twitter that “the whole process is very unfair and almost meaningless,” adding, “Where is @BrianKempGA?”
He also retweeted a poll showing Kemp’s approval rating had taken a hit. “Sensational! We hope Governor Kemp sees the light before it’s too late. Must finally take matters into his own hands!” He wrote.
Then he tagged Kemp in a tweet in which he demanded Republicans “get tough.”
Trump’s allies have joined the stack. Fox News host Sean Hannity said Kemp was “curling up in fear” and Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz accused the governor of failing to ensure the integrity of the election.
Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, meanwhile, devoted part of his podcast Thursday to the Kemp explosion.
Trump’s influence in the Republican primaries could extend beyond Georgia and Ohio. He has already sworn to campaign against Alaskan Senator Lisa Murkowski, sometimes Trump critic who said in June that she “struggles” with whether she supports Trump.
“Not many people know where they will be in two years, but I do, in the great state of Alaska (which I love) campaigning against Senator Lisa Murkowski,” Trump tweeted at the time.
He added: “Prepare any candidate, good or bad, I don’t care, I approve. If you have a pulse, I’m with you!
Republicans view Kemp as more vulnerable to a primary challenge than DeWine, noting that the Georgian has seen support erosion among conservatives.
He has been criticized for his decision to appoint Kelly Loeffler to the seat of the Georgian Senate over a Trump favorite, Rep. Doug Collins. And after endorsing Kemp in the 2018 gubernatorial contest, Trump openly clashed with Kemp over his handling of the coronavirus. At a press conference in April, the president said he was “not happy with Brian Kemp, I’ll tell you.”
Trump’s allies have already started encouraging Collins to challenge Kemp in 2022. When Hannity raised the idea during an interview on his radio show, Collins, who is leading Trump’s recount effort in Georgia, laughed. in response.
Kemp saw his approval rating drop to 37%, according to a survey published last week. Republicans fear a damaging primary will leave him hampered in a possible general election revenge against former House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, whom he narrowly defeated in 2018.
Kemp certified the state’s 16 electoral votes for Biden on Friday, although he offered an olive branch to supporters of the president, saying it was “unacceptable” that “thousands of ballots not counted” were found in a post-election audit.
Trump, meanwhile, has long viewed DeWine as insufficiently loyal. During his 2018 run, the governor of Ohio often skipped the president’s rallies around the state. This has not gone unnoticed in the White House.
Although DeWine has high approval ratings, he has drawn opposition from Trump supporters over the coronavirus restrictions he has implemented. The 73-year-old governor was booed during an appearance in September at a Trump rally.
Among the names mentioned as a potential main opponent is Max Miller, who played a key role in Trump’s White House and in the re-election campaign. Miller, who is from Shaker Heights, a suburb of Cleveland, and is from a prominent Ohio political family, declined to comment.
Rep. Jim Jordan, another stalwart of Trump, has also been touted as a potential challenger to DeWine – although many Ohio Republicans believe he wants to stay in Congress. Still, the congressman has drawn attention for his sharp criticism of the governor’s response to the coronavirus.
Former Ohio Rep. Jim Renacci, who aligned himself with Trump in an unsuccessful Senate bid in 2018, said he was prepared to challenge the outgoing governor. He criticized DeWine for calling Biden president-elect.
“I think the least he should have done is allow the president to go through the legal process given to him by law and make sure all legal votes are counted,” Renacci wrote in a text message. .
Trump has proven to be a powerful force in the GOP primaries. His approvals from Kemp and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in 2018 led them to the state office. That same year, he lit his fire on then-GOP Rep Mark Sanford, sinking him in his primary contest.
And against the wishes of party leaders, Trump endorsed Kansas Republican Kris Kobach in place of a sitting Republican governor. Kobach defeated the incumbent named in the primary, then lost to Democrat Laura Kelly in the general election.
Trump’s deep base of conservative support virtually guarantees that he will remain a force once he leaves office. And the fact that many of his supporters are convinced the election was stolen from him could heighten their loyalty.
But party strategists are worried, which could create problems in the next election.
“In the short term, President Trump’s attacks on these governors serve his interest to cast doubt on the election results. But if he invites serious primary challengers, he could hurt Republicans in the long run and drain valuable resources that would be used for a general election, ”said Jon Thompson, a former senior RGA official.
This isn’t the only way Trump is handcuffing the GOP. The president’s flirtation with a 2024 comeback attempt threatens to freeze other potential GOP candidates who have started to lay the groundwork for a national campaign.
All of this has heightened GOP fears that Trump’s post-White House political activities are preventing the party from turning the page.
“I would think about how you help re-elect Republican governors. Donald Trump doesn’t think of it that way. His worldview starts and ends with his own personal interests the exact moment he types a tweet, ”said Tucker Martin, who was a key aide to ex-Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell.
The question of how involved Trump will be in future Republican primaries is open. People close to the president say he has a keen interest in bearish races and expect him to play a kingmaker role.
Former Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) Was skeptical that Trump would target Kemp. But who knows, he said.
“The President,” Westmoreland said, “is pretty unpredictable.”