Speaking last night when she accepted her JFK Profiles in Courage award, Liz Cheney stuck a sharp claw in her own party's eye: "The question for every one of us is in this time of testing, will we do our duty? Will we defend our Constitution? Will we stand for truth? Will we put duty to our oath above partisan politics? Or will we look away from danger, ignore the threat, embrace the lies and enable the liar?" I suspect that there are many Republican office holders who agree with her but are afraid to say so publicly .
In a discussion with former Orlando Rep. Alan Grayson about Congress yesterday, he noted that "It has become fashionable among MAGA Republicans to vote against anything that would help people. Funny coincidence-- that’s just what Harding, Coolidge and Hoover were doing a century ago. Possibly with the same result." Possibly... but we'll get more hints about that after the next month's GOP primaries-- starting tomorrow in several Old Confederacy states-- pitting hard right conservatives and fascist MAGAs backed by Trump.
Pennsylvania wasn't part of the Old Confederacy, but there are parts of the state that would probably want to be part of a New Confederacy-- the parts that gave the GOP gubernatorial nomination to extremist QAnon follower Doug Mastriano. This morning, Politico reported that Democrats, including the Democratic Governors Association, have already launched a massive $6 million advertising barrage against Mastriano for his fanatically anti-Choice position. This is the TV ad that started running today:
Normally, you would expect the extremely well-healed Republican Governors Association to step in to defend Mastriano and counterattack Josh Shapiro, the Pennsylvania Democratic Attorney General running for governor. But the RGA has far more important things to do with their money than flush it down that black hole.
Yesterday Annie Linskey, Josh Dawsey, Michael Scherer and Matthew Brown reported that the RGA is working to stop Trump nationally, not Shapiro in Pennsylvania. Trump's "personal vendetta tour" attacking incumbent Republican Party governors is the enemy they decided to put their resources behind, committing millions of dollars-- ostensibly raised to fight Democrats-- into primary battles against MAGA challengers from Janice McGeachin, who was just handily beaten in Idaho last week, to David Purdue, who they expect to knock off tomorrow in Georgia.
The quartet of Washington Post reporters quoted RGA co-chair Doug Ducey, the hard-right Arizona governor, explaining that their "focus is on 2022. I don’t believe we should spend one more moment talking about 2020." They asked him if Trump’s help for his preferred candidates "was worth much [and] the Arizona governor, who pointed to states where GOP governors avoided or defeated Trump challengers, replied: 'It hasn’t been to date.' The gambit is set to culminate Tuesday in Georgia, where Republican Gov. Brian Kemp is heavily favored to defeat former senator David Perdue in a closely-watched primary. Trump recruited Perdue and made him his marquee candidate in a larger crusade against GOP officeholders who opposed his fight to overturn the 2020 election, which was rooted in false claims about fraud."
The RGA invested some $5 million in Georgia, according to a person familiar with the group’s outlays, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe sensitive details. A parade of Republican governors and luminaries have lined up to protect Kemp. And former vice president Mike Pence, who once served as governor of Indiana, will appear with Kemp on Monday-- setting the stage for Pence’s most direct confrontation yet against Trump in the midterms.
The influx of RGA money in Georgia, according to strategists on both sides of the governor’s race, has dealt a devastating blow to Perdue, who has struggled to raise funds to compete.
“This is just not the best use of our money. We would much rather use it just in races against Democrats,” said former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who is the co-chair of a 2022 fundraising arm for the RGA and described the November meeting in Phoenix to The Post. “But it was made necessary because Donald Trump decided on the vendetta tour this year and so we need to make sure we protect these folks who are the objects of his vengeance.”
The clash has brought into focus an extraordinary battle over the future direction of the GOP that extends well beyond Georgia. On one side is an aggrieved former president who retains widespread loyalty in the party from voters. On the other, conservative governors who align with Trump on many issues but have grown tired of his election claims, which post-election audits have shown to be false.
And the latter has already had success.
Trump’s endorsed candidate lost badly in Idaho’s gubernatorial primary, where the RGA backed Gov. Brad Little, and the former president backed away from early rumblings that he might challenge incumbent governors in Ohio and Alabama. In Nebraska, the political machine of outgoing Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts helped sink Trump’s choice for governor in an open race, who had been accused of sexually assaulting multiple women
Angry that Kemp refused to help him overturn the election results in a key battleground state, Trump set out to topple him. He called him “a turncoat,” a “coward” and “a complete and total disaster.” He pumped $2.64 million from his political action committee into efforts to unseat Kemp, far more than the former president has spent on any other race.
“It’s not easy to beat a sitting governor,” Trump said in a Monday interview with The Post. “I’m the one who got that guy elected. I endorsed him, and he won. He’s not good on election integrity, and he did a terrible job on election integrity. We’ll see what happens.”
Trump added that he’s heard Perdue is “surging,” though recent polls do not reflect a change in the race.
Perdue has told local media that he does not believe the outside support has helped Kemp. “The RINOs march a parade into Georgia to, in my opinion, circle the wagons around a very embattled, weak governor,” Perdue said to WSB-TV, a local station. He was using a disparaging acronym for “Republicans In Name Only.”
Weeks ago, as it appeared increasingly likely Perdue was going to lose, Trump began distancing himself from the candidate, deciding against doing another in-person rally and complaining to advisers that Perdue was not working hard in the race, according to people familiar with the situation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe private conversations. Trump is slated to hold a tele-rally with Perdue on Monday evening.
Such a posture was striking, the people familiar with the matter said, since Trump had to talk Perdue into getting in the race all along-- after Perdue privately pinned blame on Trump for depressing GOP turnout in the January 2021 Senate runoff with his fraud claims.
On Friday, Trump tried to quell the notion that he has given up on Perdue, posting on his social media platform that it’s a “phony narrative” and adding “I am with David all the way.”
The Republicans backing Kemp have in recent days sought to frame the race as a potentially brutal political setback for Trump. “It’s clearly the most important race for Donald Trump in the country. He’s made Brian Kemp public enemy No. 1,” Christie said. “We have to decide if we want to be the ‘party of me’ or the ‘party of us.’ And that’s what a lot of these primaries are going to decide.”
In open defiance to the party’s de facto leader, a string of old guard Republicans, including three sitting governors, former president George W. Bush and Pence have rallied around Kemp, as they try to create a barrier to protect conservative governors from what they view as Trump’s whims.
A recent Fox News poll found 60 percent of Republican voters backed Kemp, putting him 32 percentage points ahead of Perdue. To avoid a runoff, Georgia candidates need to win a majority of the vote.
Kemp’s backers hope that a victory will send the message that it’s possible to stand up to Trump without paying the ultimate political price. “This is an important one. Him losing gives people courage to speak out,” said Bill Palatucci, a Republican National Committeeman from New Jersey and an ally of Christie.
...[Perdue] frequently lambastes Kemp for “dividing the Republican Party” over 2020 and warning that he cannot defeat likely Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams in the fall. He campaign ads feature Trump. “The Democrats walked all over Brian Kemp,” Trump says in one spot. Trump then turns to Perdue, who he calls “smart” and “tough.”
In another, Perdue speaks to the camera and says: “Kemp caved before the election, and the country is paying the price today.”
Even with the cash infusion from Trump, Georgia political observers said there’s little evidence that the campaign is doing much with the cash.
“I’m on the biggest radio station in the state of Georgia. I haven’t heard an ad in weeks on the radio station. I’m not seeing his TV stuff,” said Erick Erickson, a prominent conservative radio host in Georgia who is backing Kemp. “By all accounts, it looks like the Perdue campaign has just totally given up.”
Erickson said that listeners call into the show to complain that Kemp didn’t do more in the 2020 election for Trump. “But they say they’re still voting for Kemp.” He said multiple Kemp volunteers had door-knocked in his suburban Atlanta neighborhood, but not a single one from Perdue’s campaign had showed up.
Wednesday's entertainment will be watching Trump tap dance around his biggest electoral defeat since a feeble, pathetic Joe Biden beat him by around 7 million votes-- (51.3% to 46.9%) in November of 2020. Trump hates to be seen as a loser but he set this Georgia primary up in the starkest and most existential of terms. Who's he going to blame without profoundly damaging his clout inside the splintering party he still insists on leading?