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Former President Donald Trump returns to the crucial battleground state of Georgia Saturday to hold a campaign-style rally in support of the slate of candidates he’s endorsed in the Peach State.
Among those speaking at the rally northeast of Atlanta in Commerce, Georgia, will be the two Republican candidates at the top of Trump’s ticket – former pro football star running back Herschel Walker, the clear front-runner in this year’s GOP Senate primary in Georgia, and former Sen. David Perdue, who with Trump’s backing is primary challenging Republican Gov. Brian Kemp.
While Walker is leagues ahead of his GOP rivals in both the polls and fundraising in the race to face off in November’s midterm elections against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, Perdue’s struggling in both key campaign metrics as he tries to knock off Kemp in the gubernatorial primary.
Perdue trails the conservative governor in the latest public opinion surveys, including a Fox News poll conducted March 2-6 that indicated Kemp led Perdue by 11 points among Republicans likely to vote in the May 24 primary. The winner will face off in November against Democrat Stacey Abrams, who’s running a second straight time for governor.
“I’m proud to have President Trump’s endorsement. With his help, we’re going to beat Kemp in May and Abrams in November and get our state back,” Perdue told Fox News.
Former President Donald Trump speaks at a rally Sept. 25, 2021, in Perry, Georgia.
(Sean Rayford/Getty Images)
The trip by Trump, first reported by Fox News earlier this month, will be the former president’s first to the state since Sept. 25, when he held a large rally in Perry, Georgia. Fourteen months removed from the White House, the former president remains the most popular and influential GOP politician as he continues to play a kingmaker’s role in party primaries and repeatedly teases another presidential run in 2024.
“Anytime the former president — who’s still very popular in the state and very popular with Republicans everywhere — takes time out of his schedule and comes down and campaigns with you, it’s going to be helpful. It’s going to help energize the base,” Chip Lake, a veteran Georgia-based Republican consultant, told Fox News.
And the Perdue campaign emphasized that “as word gets out that Trump has endorsed Perdue, support for our campaign will only continue to grow.”
But Lake suggests that the former president may be spreading himself thin in Georgia.
“With Trump endorsing so many candidates, it dilutes the other endorsements,” Lake said. He added that the multiple endorsements can be confusing to “the average Republican voter, even the one who loves Donald Trump.”
Four years ago, with the support of Trump, Kemp narrowly defeated Abrams to win the governorship.
In this Nov. 4, 2018, file photo, then-Georgia Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp, left, walks with then-President Donald Trump as Trump arrives for a rally in Macon, Ga.
(AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
But Kemp earned Trump’s ire starting in late 2020, after Kemp certified Joe Biden’s narrow victory in Georgia in the presidential election following two recounts of the vote. Trump, who had unsuccessfully urged the governor and other top Republican officials in the state to overturn the results, has repeatedly vowed to return to Georgia to campaign against Kemp. Trump for months urged Perdue to primary challenge the governor, and late last year he endorsed Perdue a day after the former senator launched his bid.
Donald Trump Jr., the former president’s oldest child, teamed up with Perdue on the campaign trail earlier this month with stops in Cumming and Tifton. And Perdue hauled in $600,000 when he joined Trump at a fundraiser at the former president’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, March 16, according to a source with knowledge of the event.
Trump stars in a slew of Perdue’s campaign commercials running statewide.
“David Perdue is an outstanding man. He’s tough. He’s smart. He has my complete and total endorsement,” Trump says in one of the ads.
David Perdue, a former U.S. senator and Republican gubernatorial candidate, greets supporters at a campaign event Feb. 1, 2022, in Dalton, Ga.
(Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)
Perdue, a former corporate chief executive officer before winning election to the Senate in 2014, has downplayed his poll position, telling reporters earlier this month, “We’re right where we want to be right now. I love being the challenger. I want this governor to answer a lot of questions. I’m the guy that in 2014, even in 2020, a lot of these polls missed us.”
But the polls also indicate that Kemp remains popular among conservative voters.
“There’s one thing that’s been pretty consistent and that’s Brian Kemp’s favorability and name ID remain remarkably strong throughout the attacks by Donald Trump,” a Georgia-based Republican strategist who asked for anonymity told Fox News. “Brian Kemp is really well liked by the conservative base despite what Donald Trump says.”
And Lake noted that “Perdue’s got a lot of work to do to close that gap against an incumbent governor who’s coming off what appears to be a pretty successful legislative session.”
Walker will also be in the spotlight at Trump’s Saturday rally. The recent Fox News poll indicated Walker at 66% support among likely Republican primary voters, with his rivals for the nomination all in the single digits.
Former college football star and current senate candidate Herschel Walker speaks at a rally as former President Donald Trump applauds in Perry, Georgia, Sept. 25, 2021.
Walker, who won a Heisman Trophy and helped propel the University of Georgia to a national championship four decades ago, was encouraged by Trump for months last year to run in the race to challenge Warnock. And Walker was endorsed by the former president soon after jumping into the race in late summer. Georgia’s Senate race is one of a handful of contests in November’s midterms that could decide whether the Republicans win back the majority in the chamber.
Political insiders don’t attribute Walker’s large lead in the Fox News poll and other recent surveys solely to Trump’s endorsement.
The GOP strategist told Fox News that “the Trump endorsement helps, but Herschel Walker is a legend here in Georgia, and he’s very likable.”
On the eve of Trump’s rally, state Democrats took aim at the former president and his allies as they spotlighted what they call the “Trump first, Georgians last” agenda.”
Rep. Nikema Williams, chair of the Democratic Party of Georgia, charged on Friday that at Trump’s rally “we can expect to hear more of those same lies and debunked conspiracy theories about 2020 and nothing about the issues that actually matter and impact Georgians everyday lives.”
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