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Why Trump's full court press in Georgia hasn't helped Perdue's bid to oust Kemp

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As he aims to take out Republican Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, former President Donald Trump has been working hard this year to boost the campaign of former Sen. David Perdue, whom he endorsed late last year, the day after Perdue launched a primary challenge against the governor.

"He's an outstanding guy," Trump said during a tele-rally with Perdue at the beginning of May as early voting got underway. "Vote for David Perdue. He's going to be a great governor."

The former president reiterated that Perdue's "the only candidate who can beat" Stacey Abrams, who is unopposed in the Democratic gubernatorial primary. Trump accused Kemp of being "a horrendous RINO" (Republican in name only) and said Republican voters "are not going to vote for Kemp" in the general election if he wins the GOP gubernatorial primary.

Trump's political team tells Fox News the former president may hold another tele-rally with Perdue on the eve of Georgia's Tuesday primary. Trump has also starred in Perdue's campaign commercials that were blanketing Georgia's airwaves and held a rally with the former senator in late March. 

Donald Trump shakes hands with former Sen. David Perdue, who's primary challenging GOP Gov. Brian Kemp, at the former president's rally in Cumming, Georgia, on March 26, 2022. (David Perdue campaign)

Trump, 16 months removed from the White House, remains the most popular and influential voice in the Republican Party as he continues to make dozens of endorsements up and down the ballot in this year's primaries and repeatedly flirts with another presidential run in 2024. 

But his full court press for Perdue hasn't boosted the former senator's campaign.

HE'S GOT TRUMP'S BACKING, SO WHY IS PERDUE STRUGGLING TO OUST KEMP

A Fox News poll in Georgia released this week is the latest to indicate Kemp holding a very large lead over his Trump-backed challenger. According to the survey, which was conducted May 12-16 and released on Wednesday evening, the governor holds a massive 60%-28% lead over Perdue among likely GOP primary voters in the Peach State.

(Fox News )

The poll indicates Trump remains very popular with Georgia Republicans — at 78% favorability — but only 37% of GOP voters said the former president's backing of Perdue made it more likely they'd support the former senator, with six out of 10 saying Trump's endorsement had no effect or made it more likely they'd be less supportive of Perdue.

Nearly two-thirds of those questioned said it's extremely important that the GOP gubernatorial nominee can win in November, while only a quarter said it's extremely important for the nominee to be a strong Trump supporter.

GEORGIA GOP GUBERNATORIAL CLASH: KEMP KEEPS BRINGING IN BIG BUCKS

Regardless of Trump's continued clout, most political strategists say that ousting in a primary an incumbent governor running for reelection is extremely difficult.

"Incumbency matters greatly," Georgia-based conservative talk show host and nationally known political blogger Erick Erickson told Fox News. 

WHAT A NEW FOX NEWS POLL IN THE KEMP-PERDUE GEORGIA GOP GUBERNATORIAL PRIMARY SHOWS

Gov. Brian Kemp takes a selfie with supporters on the campaign trail in Blakely, Georgia, on April 20, 2022. (Brian Kemp re-election campaign)

In Idaho, Trump backed far-right Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, who was best-known of seven primary challengers running against incumbent Republican Gov. Brad Little. The governor easily crushed the field in Tuesday's primary, winning renomination.

And a week earlier, Charles Herbster — the candidate Trump endorsed and held a rally on his behalf in Nebraska's GOP gubernatorial primary — was edged out by Jim Pillen, who was backed by term-limited and outgoing Gov. Pete Ricketts.

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In Georgia, Kemp has made the most of the power of incumbency, spending the past six weeks showcasing his numerous victories and achievements in the recently concluded legislative session. And in the Fox News poll, Kemp held a 72% favorable rating among GOP voters, compared to 56% for Perdue.

(Fox News)

"The voters already know these guys. They don't need Trump's word to vouch for one of these candidates because they know them," Erickson said. "Incumbency really matters more than Trump."

Erickson noted that on Friday, as Perdue is scheduled to hold an event in Savannah with 2008 GOP vice presidential nominee and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to showcase her endorsement of his campaign, "Kemp is going to announce the launch of the largest EV battery facility in the nation, with Hyundai," at an event nearby.

PERDUE SAYS TRUMP WILL DO 'WHATEVER IT TAKES' TO HELP HIM BEAT KEMP

Four years ago, with the support of Trump, Kemp narrowly defeated Abrams, a rising star in the Democratic Party who's become a nationally known advocate for election reform, to win the governorship. But Kemp earned Trump's ire starting in late 2020, after he certified now-President 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, returned to Georgia last autumn and again in late March to campaign against Kemp.

And Perdue has made Kemp's actions in the 2020 election a leading theme of his campaign, as he's supported Trump's constant attempts to re-litigate his election loss. He's charged numerous times that Kemp "sold us out."

But Erickson said that most Georgia Republicans, while still angry about 2020, "have absolutely moved on… they're ready to move forward."

Pedue is far from the only politician Trump endorsed this year in Georgia. He's also backing former football star Herschel Walker in the Senate primary, and has also taken sides in the GOP primaries for lieutenant governor, Secretary of State, and a couple of congressional contests. But the large numbers of endorsements may work against Trump.

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Chip Lake, a veteran Georgia-based GOP consultant, emphasized that while the former president remains very popular among Peach State Republicans, with Trump endorsing so many candidates it dilutes the other endorsements. 

He added that the multiple endorsements can be confusing to "the average Republican voter, even the one who loves Donald Trump."

Paul Steinhauser is a politics reporter based in New Hampshire. 

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