It’s usually a bad idea to look for national political significance in the state primaries, but these are not ordinary times.
The data points: On May 24, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp defeated former Senator David Perdue by 52 points, and Secretary of State Brian Raffensperger defeated his next opponent, Rep. Jody Hice, by 18 points. Both men were incumbents, but their challengers are accomplished politicians themselves.
What is remarkable about both breeds is Donald Trump’s confident role in them. He engaged in one-sided feuds with both winners and supported the losers. Mr. Raffensperger had insisted that Mr. Trump’s claims about rampant voter fraud in Georgia were false and, in a phone call with the President after the 2020 election, flatly dismissed the idea that the Secretary of State could “find” the 11,780 votes , which are required for delivery from Georgia. Mr Kemp later confirmed the election, prompting Mr Trump to call for the governor’s resignation and to say he was ashamed to have backed him in 2018. The former president’s hostility towards both incumbents seemed to indicate electoral problems for them, but they had none.
Another exceptional data point: Mr. Raffensperger won Georgia’s 14th congressional district – represented by Marjorie Taylor Greene – by a margin of 20 points. Mrs. Greene won her elementary school last week by 70%, and there is no woman more enthusiastic about the “stop the steal” position. At her inauguration ceremony in 2021, she famously wore a face mask that read “TRUMP WON.” That a large portion of the 14th Precinct GOP voters pulled the lever for both Mrs. Greene and Mr. Raffensperger seems to indicate a disconnect between stated belief and practice.
Journalists in the mainstream press and liberal commentators have spent much of the last 18 months expressing outrage and confusion that so many Republicans – 60% is the number normally quoted – do not believe that Joe Biden’s election was legitimate. The claim that an entire presidential election was ruined by voter fraud is difficult to reconcile with the strongly expressed determination to vote in an upcoming election: if you really believe the election is rigged, why are you voting?
My own conversations with people who make up that 60%, in Georgia and elsewhere, suggest that much depends on the meaning of “legitimate.” Was the election stolen? At a bar in Peachtree Corners, a suburb of Atlanta, I met with several Republicans whose responses ranged from “of course it was” to “don’t be ridiculous.” One of them, a banker in his early 40s, put it nicely. “My personal position,” he said of an IPA, “is that I don’t think the election was stolen. I think it was tampered with.”
This view might be expressed something like this: Dominion voting machines may not have performed vote inversions, and boxes of counterfeit ballots may not have made their way into the official counts, but the voting rules were changed mid-race and Mr. Trump effectively passed four years of media lies, bogus investigations and full-blown democratic “resistance” delegitimized. By November 3, 2020, virtually any result would have appeared suspicious.
A week after the primary, I asked Mr. Kemp at his campaign headquarters just outside of Atlanta if he thought the stop-the-steal stance was more an expression of anger than a thoughtful commitment. “There’s definitely a hardcore group out there. They are adamant and believe every video they’ve seen, every theory they’ve heard,” he said. He recounted an incident where a woman criticized him at a regional GOP meeting for not “ordering a forensic examination of all ballots.” He spent 30 minutes explaining to the room why he wasn’t authorized to do so and why the claims of massive voter fraud they’ve heard have no evidence, only to be approached by the same woman who asked why he didn’t have a forensic Ordered examination of ballots. But he said even where cheating allegations are at their wildest, “90%” of Georgians are “ready to move on and focus on the future”.
Maybe, but he’s certainly right about one thing: “Even these people” — the true believers in a stolen election — “hate Stacey Abrams a lot more than they hate me.” Ms. Abrams, who ran unopposed, won the Democratic gubernatorial nomination last month and thus prepared a new edition of the 2018 competition. She lost that race to Mr. Kemp by 54,723 votes – more than 4½ times Mr. Trump’s loss – but to this day refuses to back down.
“Trump Leads the Stacey Abrams Playbook” was the headline of a December 2020 article by Mr. Raffensperger on these pages. You’d think Mr. Trump would be jealous of the comparison, but 10 months later he made it himself. “Stacey, would you like to take his place?” he asked at a rally in October in a sardonic riff at Mr. Kemp’s expense. “It’s fine with me.”
With that throwaway line, which keeps coming up in discussions with the state’s GOP voters, Mr. Trump managed to associate himself as a bad loser in the election disputes with the one person capable of inciting the wrath of every Republican in the state kindle .
In the meantime, another development may have helped Messrs. Kemp and Raffensperger: the sudden fixation of the progressive political class on Georgia and the awakened corporations. Last year, Major League Baseball moved the 2021 All-Star game from Atlanta to protest a law passed by lawmakers in March that largely restored the state’s election law to pre-pandemic norms. Self-proclaimed civil rights groups have denounced the bill as “racist.” Delta Airlines and Coca-Cola from Atlanta co
piled up, as did Mr. Biden, who dubbed the law “Jim Crow on steroids.”
These grossly misinformed outrages affected both Mr. Kemp, who signed the law, and Mr. Raffensperger, who supported it. By defying both men, Mr. Trump sided with woke corporations, an woke professional sports league, and Mr. Biden. Georgia Republicans got the message.
Mr. Trump doesn’t. Following Messrs. Kemp and Raffensperger’s victories last week, the former president emailed supporters who linked to a Substack post by Emerald Robinson, arguing that the election results were obviously “suspicious” given the unusual spreads be big. (Ms. Robinson, a former Newsmax correspondent, tweeted in November that Covid vaccines “contain a bioluminescent marker called LUCIFERASE so you can be tracked.” The network declined to renew her contract.)
Ms. Robinson’s point, which Mr. Trump wanted to reiterate, was that Georgia Republicans cheated. It remains unexplained why Mr. Kemp’s promoters, who saw their candidate 20 or 30 points ahead in the polls, resorted to cheating to bring the lead to 40 or 50 points. It is also unclear what good it will do for Mr. Trump to attack his own side as he plans to run for the presidency in 2024.
The result: Mr. Trump’s obsession with the Georgia recount seems to undermine his political position at every point. John Watson, a political adviser and former chairman of the Republican Party, shared this point with me in a nice metaphor. “Georgia is a political crack pipe that Trump can’t put down and like all addictions, it hurts him a lot.”
Mr Kemp has avoided direct responses to Mr Trump’s attacks. “He’s mad at me,” the governor said shortly before the election. “I’m not mad at him.” When I asked him if his first win indicated the former president’s influence in the party had waned, I hoped he’d say something interesting, but suspected he wasn’t would do. My instinct was right: “I’m not concentrating on Trump. . .”
“I was afraid you would say that,” I replied, making his wife Marty laugh, who saw what I was up to.
But the governor’s approach is wise. The main lesson from the Georgia primary is that it’s not good for Republican candidates to talk about Mr. Trump. When he lived in the White House, they felt they had to identify with the President: you’re either a Trumpist or a Never Trumper. That tendency abated the moment Mr. Trump left office. The former president still has the power to boost vacant seats for candidates running in multi-candidate primaries, but the Georgia primary suggests he is in no position to harm incumbents who ignore him .
I asked Mr. Raffensperger about the need for Republicans to identify with Mr. Trump, and he too responded by not answering. “Peter Drucker, the management guru, has a great book called ‘Managing Oneself,'” he said. “And I think we need to work harder at managing ourselves.”
In contrast to Mr. Hice, Mr. Raffensperger exudes a patient competence that could well be described as boring. He explains the annoying questions of electoral law precisely and avoids exaggerations. I couldn’t get him to mention Mr. Trump. “People thought Eisenhower was boring,” he remarked, seeming to read my mind. “But the 1950s were one of the ten most prosperous years in our history for the middle class. Maybe sometimes boring is good.”
What if allegations of vote-stealing turn out to be largely emotional, or at least not literal? And what if candidates for high office, Democrats and Republicans, stop talking about Donald Trump? We probably won’t get bored again, but maybe times will get a little more normal soon.
Mr. Swaim is a Journal Editorial Pages Editor.
Copyright ©2022 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8
https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-trump-is-the-loser-in-a-georgia-rematch-kemp-abrams-raffensperger-primary-voters-11654283552 Why Trump Is the Loser in a Georgia Election Rematch