Under attack by Trump, Georgia Gov. Kemp gets reinforcements from pro-GOP governors group, Chris Christie

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The lead group dedicated to electing and reelecting Republican governors on Tuesday launched its second TV ad in Georgia to support conservative Gov. Brian Kemp, who’s facing a serious primary challenge as he runs for reelection this year.

The spot by the Republican Governors Association (RGA) showcases Kemp’s record and touts that the governor’s “working hard, solving problems, getting results.” But the commercial, which the RGA tells Fox News is part of a $850,000 statewide ad buy, doesn’t mention the governor’s top Republican primary challenger, former Sen. David Perdue, who’s been endorsed by former President Donald Trump.

The RGA typically spends money on behalf of GOP incumbents in general elections. But six weeks ago, when they launched their first commercial on behalf of Kemp, the group took the unprecedented step of financing an ad to support a sitting governor facing a Republican primary challenge.

Republican Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia formally launches his 2022 reelection campaign at a kick-off event in Perry, Georgia, on July 10, 2021
(Brian Kemp 2022 reelection campaign)

The narrator in the spot emphasizes that the governor is helping families make ends meet by lowering taxes and creating good paying jobs, easing the burden at the gas pump, giving parents more control of their kids education, fighting to reduce crime. Through all the challenges we’ve faced, Brian Kemp has always put Georgia first.”

And the spot criticizes Stacey Abrams, the former Georgia Democratic legislative leader, voting rights champion, and rising star in her party, who lost to Kemp in 2018 by a razor-thin margin and in December launched a second straight bid for Georgia governor.

Four years ago Kemp edged Abrams thanks in part to the backing of then-President Trump. But the governor earned Trump’s ire starting in late 2020, after he certified now-President Biden’s narrow victory in Georgia in the presidential election, following multiple vote recounts. Trump, who had unsuccessfully urged Kemp 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.

Perdue’s move sets up an epic GOP primary battle with Kemp in a one-time solidly red state that’s become a top general election battleground. Kemp’s also facing primary challenges from a  lesser-known candidate. The most recent Fox News poll in the Georgia GOP gubernatorial primary – conducted March 2-6 – indicated Kemp at 50% support, Perdue at 39%, and one in ten undecided.

Trump returns to Georgia on Saturday to hold a rally with Perdue.

Former U.S. senator and Republican gubernatorial candidate David Perdue greets supporters at a campaign event on Feb. 1, 2022, in Dalton, Georgia. (Photo by Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)
(Elijah Nouvelage/Getty Images)

Perdue was first elected to the Senate in 2014 but was defeated in his bid for a second term by a razor-thin margin by Democrat Jon Ossoff in Georgia’s twin Jan. 5, 2021, runoff elections. Democrat Raphael Warnock edged Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler in the other contest, handing the Democrats the Senate majority.

Hours before the RGA released their ad, former two-term New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie praised Kemp.

“Brian Kemp has been an outstanding governor and he deserves the support of every Republican. I’m with Brian Kemp. I’m working hard for him,” Christie said Monday in an interview with Fox News in New Hampshire. “I think it’s a very important race and I am all for Gov. Kemp.”

Christie, who served as RGA chair during the 2014 election cycle, is currently raising money for the organization. 

And Christie once again blamed the then-president’s repeated re-litigating of the 2020 election for the twin Senate losses in Georgia, telling Fox News that Trump’s “conduct cost us those two Senate seats. It cost us the Loeffler and Perdue seats.” 

Trump has pushed back against criticism from Christie and other Republicans that his criticism of Kemp and other Georgia officials ahead of the runoff contests deflated GOP turnout.

Republicans currently control 28 of the 50 governorships across the country, with 36 states holding elections for governor in November. 

The RGA eyes flipping 8 states this November: Kansas, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Mexico, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Biden carried all those states – other than Kansas – in the 2020 presidential election. Democratic incumbent governors are running for reelection in all of those states, other than the key battleground of Pennsylvania, where the party seems to be coalescing around state Attorney General Josh Shapiro in the race to succeed term-limited Gov. Tom Wolf.

“Kansas is number is one. Wisconsin is number two,” Christie told Fox News. “I think we can flip New Mexico.”

And the former governor added that “I think we have a real shot in Michigan. I’d probably put that in the next tier down from there. So, I think those are four that we have real legitimate chances of doing.”

But Republicans will be playing plenty of defense in the purple state of Arizona and the blue state of Maryland, where Govs. Doug Ducey (who’s the current RGA co-chair) and Larry Hogan are term-limited incumbents. And Republicans face an uphill climb in the blue state of Massachusetts, where two-term GOP Gov. Charlie Baker decided against running for reelection.

“There’s a bunch of states here that we’ve got to take a look at on the defense side as well,” Christie told Fox News. “The first, most important job of the Republican Governors Association is to support our Republican incumbent governors. Then, once we do that, go out and see where we can make gains.”

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