Normally, this is a story about how Trump will select nominees for a basically supine GOP and those nominees appeal to no one but the extreme base, not to swing voters who decided most elections. But that isn't exactly what this post is going to be about. There's a twist inherent in that theme-- Trump's craving for total dominance.
The Democrats nominated a shitbag, lesser-of-two-evils candidate for governor of Virginia, corrupt corporate whore Terry McAuliffe. As is their wont, the Democrats are counting on external features to get their bag of shit over the finish line first:
• an even worse Republican in Glenn Youngkin
• a blue lean among voters
• more money to spend on worthless consultants
• Trumpophobia among voters
In the end, it'll probably work and McAuliffe will be elected governor, albeit by a narrower margin than an even marginally more inspiring Democrat should win by. Still, it'll give the media ammo to publish "both sides" stories and give each party something to crow about-- and especially Trump, whose premises for his post-presidency are always the same:
• all elections except ones where Trumpists win are stolen elections
Poor Youngkin is trying to walk the tightrope of appealing to swing voters while holding onto hardcore Trump voters, who are too few to win an election in any states outside of the New Confederacy. Political parties normally try to help general election candidates walk that tightrope. But not Trump; instead, he has signaled his devoted fans that Youngkin is not a real Trumpist and not worthy of their support. If enough of them don't vote, it will only help two people: McAuliffe, who will win with a larger margin, and Trump, who will be able to use it as proof that no one wins who doesn't kiss his ass enough-- and, make no mistake about it, Youngkin has kissed it plenty, at least during the primary.
Trump and McAuliffe are, oddly on the same side here-- pushing Youngkin further into extreme Trumpism. From McAuliffe's campaign: "Glenn Youngkin-- who is proud to have been endorsed by Donald Trump four times-- has said Donald Trump represents why he’s running for governor. His whole campaign has been predicated on Trump’s election conspiracy theory and his plan to ban abortion in Virginia. Glenn is a Forever Trumper and Terry will not let Glenn do to Virginia what Trump did to our country."
This is all about a 2021 election that's going to be decided in a few weeks and where people are already voting early. The first skirmishes in Georgia, for a 2022 election a year away, have begun and they are following similar lines. Trump may well be making it more difficult for Republicans in a red-leaning state that shouldn't be that difficult for them at all. But was that Señor Trumpanzee endorsing Stacey Abrams for governor the other day? Early this morning, CNN reported that Señor T's deranged and entered who-driven war with Governor Brian Kemp (R) has the state party panicking that it will make it harder for them to win next year. The former guy's "criticism of Kemp," wrote Michael Warren, "now includes hyping Democrat Stacey Abrams as a preferable alternative to the GOP governor, whose crime against Trump was staying out of his attempt to overturn the Georgia 2020 election returns. 'Having her, I think, might be better than having your existing governor, if you want to know what I think,' Trump said Saturday at his rally in Perry, adding later, 'Stacey, would you like to take his place? It's OK with me.'"
What kind of signal is that to Trump's low-IQ base of supporters in backward rural counties where Trump racked up massive landslides last year, like Brantley (90.2%), Glasscock (89.6%), Banks (88.5%), Pierce (87.3%), Echols (87.1%), Bacon (86.1%), Pike (85.1%). Kemp can't win if these morons-- and morons like them across the state, the kind of drooling, toothless, vaccine free imbeciles who elect congressional reps like Marjorie Traitor Greene, Andrew Clyde, Jody Hice and Barry Loudermilk-- don't turn out for him.
Party leaders worry a divided Georgia GOP next year could hand Democrats the governor's mansion and help them keep a Senate seat in a year when Republicans should do well. And the former President's quasi-endorsement of Abrams reveals the diffidence among party leaders about how to proceed.
"I think the most notable part is the quiet of everyone in the GOP in Georgia," said Erick Erickson, an Atlanta-based talk radio host. "No one agrees with him. No one is endorsing it. But no one is vocally pushing back, either."
At the same time, the battle in Georgia reveals the larger war for the party's future and what role Trump occupies in it.
The former President is doing his part to try to shape this future in his own image in Georgia. He has endorsed a slate of Republican candidates for statewide office in competitive primaries. Several of these attended his rally in Perry last weekend, including Herschel Walker for US Senate, Burt Jones for lieutenant governor and Jody Hice for secretary of state.
"I do not see how the governor can unite the party without reconciling with the former President," said one longtime Georgia Republican operative. "This is not a question of fairness. It is a question of reality. Kemp needs the party united in 2022."
But other Republicans in Georgia say demanding total loyalty is a risky proposition for a decidedly purple state that Trump lost in 2020. And the stakes for the GOP are high, with the US Senate race in Georgia potentially determining which party holds the majority after next fall's midterms.
"Trump could prevent Republicans in Georgia from riding a massive anti-Biden wave that could put them almost where they were pre-Trump," said a second Republican operative from Georgia.
Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, a Republican and vocal critic of Trump's false claims about the 2020 election, wrote in a CNN op-ed last week that Trump threatens to "hijack our great state for his own selfish agenda."
"It might make for good theater, but it is setting back the conservative movement. If we keep it up, we are looking at another four years of President Biden calling the shots," Duncan wrote.
But despite Trump's loss in Georgia last year, he remains a popular figure among the Republican base in the state. Candidates get nowhere with their own voters by taking Trump on directly.
"What they don't put up with is you attacking him, because then it is Trump and them against you. They see themselves as Trump's people, Trump's followers, Trump's defenders," said a senior GOP official who is loyal to Kemp. "As long as you don't make him the victim ... that's the only needle to thread."
So far, neither Kemp nor his campaign has responded publicly to Trump's taunts. His office declined to comment for this story.
Kemp's troubles with Trump began when he told state lawmakers last December that he had no power to change the slate of electors from Georgia, and he has consistently kept to that message in public since then.
For taking that position, Kemp has been lambasted by Trump, who on Saturday called him a "RINO" and a "complete and total disaster on election integrity."
But Georgia Republicans say the 57-year-old governor is not likely to acquiesce to Trump's false claim that he won the 2020 election.
"Kemp is a lot of things, but he's no wuss," said one Georgia Republican strategist who does not work for the governor or his campaign. "And he will not back down. And I think Trump has only seen that a handful of times during his presidency. This is just alpha-on-alpha."
Trump's aversion to Kemp is a stunning reversal of their relationship. Until the 2020 election, the first-term Republican governor was a model Trump Republican.
In 2018, amid a divided primary in the governor's race, Trump threw his support to Kemp, then Georgia's secretary of state. By running to the right, Kemp won the primary runoff against the more establishment-friendly then-lieutenant governor, Casey Cagle.
Kemp's approach in the general election looked remarkably like Trump's: maximizing turnout of rural White voters to add to the traditional Republican coalition. In the closing days of the race, Kemp appeared at a Trump rally in Macon, where the then-President urged Georgians to vote for Kemp in order to "make America great again."
But the 2018 result was one of the closest gubernatorial races in Georgia in decades, with Kemp edging out Abrams by fewer than 55,000 votes-- a worrying sign for Republicans that their decade-and-a-half of dominance in the state was in danger.
A Black former state legislator, Abrams improved on the previous Democratic nominee in metro Atlanta. Her wins in the populous suburban counties of Cobb and Gwinnett were the first signs that the new swing voters were souring on Trump and the GOP. Two years later, Joe Biden would win those onetime Republican strongholds by even wider margins.
It's the GOP's precarious position that has some wondering if Trump has overplayed his hand by all but endorsing the previous Democratic nominee.
"It caused a pretty big credibility problem," said a second Republican strategist in Georgia. "It just makes it look like Trump puts Trump well ahead of Georgia."
This could play out in several House races as well, of course. Delano Mayor Bryan Osorio, the progressive in the hotly contested Central Valley free-for-all told us this morning that "Trump has indicated that he won’t be supporting Republican David Valadao, which is drawing in more lesser known but more extreme Republican candidates into the 21st congressional district race. Because of this, we expect to continue seeing Valadao vote with the Republican Party instead of prioritizing his communities. He will vote against the infrastructure and reconciliation bills, because he prefers to keep his seat and appease Republican leaders, rather than provide funding for roads, bridges, broadband, education, and more services that CA-21 desperately needs. Ultimately, Valadao may slowly start becoming the extremely partisan Trump-like Republican to win over voters he’s lost since his support for the impeachment of Trump. And while the Republicans continue their infighting, I will continue to advocate for policies that improve air quality, fund education, fix roads, support immigrants, and provide green jobs."