The president has repeatedly persecuted Kemp, asking him to step in to stop what Trump has baselessly claimed is irregularities in the state’s vote count. Trump complained on Twitter that “the whole process is very unfair and almost meaningless,” adding, “Where is @BrianKempGA?”
He’s also retweeted polls showing Kemp’s approval rating got a hit. “Impressive! Hopefully Governor Kemp will see the light before it’s too late. Must finally take responsibility!” He wrote.
He then tagged Kemp in a tweet calling for Republicans to “get tough.”
Trump allies have joined the bunch. Fox News host Sean Hannity said Kemp was “crouching in fear” and Florida MP Matt Gaetz accused the governor of failing to ensure the integrity of the elections.
Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon devoted part of his podcast Thursday to the demolition of Kemp.
Trump’s influence in the Republican primary could extend beyond Georgia and Ohio. He already has lauded campaign Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, an occasional Trump critic, who said in June that she “struggled” over whether she supported Trump.
“Few people know where they’ll be in two years, but I’m campaigning against Senator Lisa Murkowski in the Great State of Alaska (which I love),” Trump tweeted at the time.
He added: “Prepare any candidate, good or bad, I don’t care, I support. If you have a pulse, I’ll be with you!”
Republicans view Kemp as more susceptible to a primary challenge than DeWine, noting that the Georgian has seen an erosion of support among Conservatives.
He came under fire for his decision to make Kelly Loeffler the seat of the Georgia Senate over a Trump favorite, Rep. Doug Collins. And after Trump supported Kemp in the 2018 gubernatorial competition, he openly argued with Kemp about his handling of the corona virus. During a press conference in April, the President said he was “not happy with Brian Kemp, I’ll tell you.”
Trump’s allies have already started encouraging Collins to challenge Kemp in 2022. When Hannity brought up the idea during an interview on his radio show, Collins, who leads Trump’s recounting efforts in Georgia, giggled in response.
Kemp saw his approval rating drop to 37 percent, according to a Poll published last week. Republicans fear a harmful primary could bring him to his knees in a possible rematch against former State House minority leader Stacey Abrams, whom he narrowly defeated in 2018.
Kemp confirmed the state’s 16 votes for Biden on Friday despite offering an olive branch to the president’s supporters and saying it was “unacceptable” that “thousands of uncounted ballot papers” were found in a post-election review.
Trump has long viewed DeWine as insufficiently loyal. During his 2018 race, the Ohio governor often skipped the state’s president rallies. It did not go unnoticed in the White House.
While DeWine has high approval ratings, Trump supporters have opposed him to the coronavirus restrictions he has implemented. The 73-year-old governor was booed during an appearance at a Trump rally in September.
Max Miller, who played a key role in Trump’s White House and in the re-election campaign, is named as a potential main opponent. Miller, who is from Shaker Heights, a suburb of Cleveland and comes from a prominent Ohio political family, declined to comment.
Rep. Jim Jordan, another staunch Trump loyalist, has also been identified as a potential challenger for DeWine – although many Ohio Republicans believe he wants to stay in Congress. Even so, Jordan caught the eye targeted criticism the governor’s coronavirus response.
Former Ohio Representative Jim Renacci, who allied with Trump during an unsuccessful 2018 Senate bid, said he was open to challenging the incumbent governor. He criticized DeWine for naming Biden as elected president.
“I think the least he should have done is to allow the president to go through the legal process granted to him by law and to ensure that all legal votes are counted,” Renacci wrote in a text message.
Trump has proven to be a powerful force in the GOP primaries. His endorsements from Kemp and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in 2018 earned her statewide office. In the same year he turned his fire on the then representative. Mark Sanford sinks him in his main GOP competition.
And against the will of the party leaders, Trump endorsed Kansas Republican Kris Kobach for having a seated Republican governor. Kobach defeated the appointed incumbent in the primary and then lost to Democrat Laura Kelly in the general election.
Trump’s deep base of conservative support virtually ensures that he will remain a force after leaving office. And the fact that many of his supporters believe the election was stolen from him could add to their loyalty.
But party strategists fear that this could cause problems in the upcoming elections.
“In the short term, President Trump’s attacks on these governors are in his interest to cast doubt on the election results. But if it invites serious primary challengers, it could hurt Republicans in the long term and consume valuable resources that would be used for general elections,” Jon said Thompson, a former senior RGA official.
This isn’t the only way Trump can handcuff the GOP. The president’s flirtation with a comeback offer for 2024 threatens to freeze out other potential GOP candidates who have started laying the groundwork for a national campaign.
All of this has compounded the GOP’s fears that Trump’s post-White House political activities will make it impossible for the party to turn the page.
“I would think about how you can help get Republican governors re-elected. Donald Trump doesn’t think so. His worldview begins and ends with his own personal interests the moment he types a tweet,” said Tucker Martin, who was a top advisor to former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell.
It is an open question how Trump will participate in future Republican primaries. People close to the president say he is keen on voting rounds and they expect him to play a role as kingmaker.
Former MP Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) Was skeptical that Trump would attack Kemp. But who knows, he said.
“The President,” said Westmoreland, “is quite unpredictable.”