Donald Trump’s political operation has commissioned a poll showing Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is vulnerable in a Republican primary, a move that comes as the former president looks to punish the first-term Republican for his perceived disloyalty during the state’s 2020 vote count.
The survey, which was paid for by Trump’s Save America PAC, shows Kemp on shaky political ground among base Republican voters and suggests he would be at risk of losing the nomination to former Sen. David Perdue, a Trump ally who lost reelection earlier this year — but who hasn’t publicly expressed interest in waging a primary challenge to Kemp.
According to the poll of 500 likely Republican primary voters, which was conducted Aug. 11-12 by Trump pollster Tony Fabrizio, only 24 percent “strongly approved” of Kemp, a fraction of the 74 percent figure Trump registered among the same group. It found that 27 percent disapproved of Kemp, compared to just 5 percent for Trump. Overall, 93 percent approved of Trump, compared to 69 percent for Kemp.
In a hypothetical primary matchup, Kemp would lead Perdue and a number of other challengers — but he’d be shy of the majority of the vote needed to avoid a runoff with Perdue. But the poll also tested a prospective scenario in which Trump endorsed Perdue in a primary against Kemp and found the former senator would flip the script, pulling ahead of the governor, 41 percent to 26 percent, giving Perdue the upper hand going into a runoff against the incumbent.
“We found that Brian Kemp is a weak incumbent that could be very susceptible to a strong primary challenge,” Fabrizio and two of his partners, David Lee and Travis Tunis, write in a memo outlining the results of the survey, adding, “Trump’s endorsement of David Perdue would completely upend the race.”
Representatives for Kemp did not respond to requests for comment. Perdue did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
Trump has been fixated on Kemp, whom he has accused of doing too little to intervene in Georgia’s vote count following a 2020 election that saw President Joe Biden win the state by two-tenths of a percentage point, or 11,779 votes. In a statement issued earlier this month, Trump celebrated Kemp getting “booed off the stage” at a Georgia GOP function.
“It is amazing how the people get what happened in Georgia, and elsewhere! The election was rigged, and everybody knows it,” Trump added, saying that Kemp “did absolutely nothing.”
Kemp responded to the criticism during an appearance on Fox News radio a day later, noting that he “supported” Trump’s legal challenges but “simply had to follow the law and the constitution once the secretary of state certified the election.” (The votes in Georgia’s November election were recounted after the initial vote tally, with no significant change in the results.)
Perdue has yet to comment on a prospective gubernatorial run, though he has ruled out a comeback Senate bid in 2022, despite pleas from party leaders. Republicans are aggressively targeting Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, who won a January special election for the state’s other seat.
Trump has openly encouraged former NFL star Herschel Walker to mount a Georgia Senate bid, though Walker has yet to commit to running. According to the poll, Walker received the support of 54 percent of likely Republican primary voters, far ahead of others in the field and above the majority threshold to avoid a runoff. According to the poll memo, if voters were informed that Walker had Trump’s endorsement, Walker’s support would rise to 67 percent.
Kemp is one of several Republicans who Trump is trying to dislodge in 2022 primaries. The former president is also aggressively targeting Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), an outspoken critic who backed Trump’s impeachment over his role in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Early this year, Trump’s PAC commissioned a similar poll testing Cheney’s vulnerability in a Republican nomination contest.