Georgia Republicans Think They Can Stop The Unstoppable Stacey Abrams, Bless Their Hearts
Stacey Abrams hasn't yet announced whether she'll run for Georgia governor again, but Republicans are still afraid of a 2022 rematch against Brian Kemp. They've even launched a "Stop Stacey" group. (It would have more oomph with an exclamation point — “Stop Stacey!" — but it's not like they'd listen to us.)
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the anti-Abrams collective was formed by allies of Governor Kemp and former GOP Senator Kelly Loeffler. It will "build a national fundraising infrastructure" (although conservatives whine about “outside money"), rally conservatives, and run nasty campaign ads that promote “media narratives" (racist garbage, we bet) about Abrams.
"We will do whatever it takes to expose Stacey Abrams' radical network, highlight her dangerous agenda and ultimately defeat her – and her left-wing candidates – at the ballot box," said Jeremy Brand, a senior strategist with the group, an independent committee. "There is no time to waste: We must stand up, fight back and stop Stacey."
Or they could run a positive campaign focusing on Brian Kemp's many successes as governor. Haha just kidding, that probably wouldn't work, so they're stuck with smearing a Black woman as an existential threat to America.
This isn't a fantasy governor's race, though, where you can build your own strawman candidate. The real Stacey Abrams exists in the world and she's awesome.
Loeffler's Senate campaign, which communicated mostly in
dog whistles, went full “radical liberal" high-dudgeon against now-Senator Raphael Warnock and failed miserably. Abrams is in a far better position than in 2018, when a Democrat winning statewide in Georgia again felt like an impossible dream. Now, we're on a streak, and Kemp's the one who in theory would need to win over voters who supported Warnock, Jon Ossoff, and Joe Biden.
I say “in theory" because Republicans do seem to act as if Abrams is some spooky voodoo priestess and these recent victories aren't a natural reflection of a changing electorate that she's helped mobilize. No, Kemp just needs to run more ads where he shoots things and that'll make Georgia voters believe it's 2002.
An AJC poll from Saturday reveals how much everyone thinks Kemp sucks. His approval rating is just 42 percent and his disapproval is at 51 percent. His popularity plateaued at "miserable" in May of 2020, when voters weren't thrilled with his “let them eat Covid" approach to the pandemic. Worse, he's been in free fall among Republican voters for months: His current 36 percent disapproval rating with his own party is more than four times what it was in January of last year.
The Marjorie Taylor Greene wing of the GOP hates Kemp because he wouldn't help the previous White House squatter overturn Georgia's election results, which Kemp couldn't have legally done anyway. Kemp was hammered mercilessly. He was unwelcome at GOP Senate runoff rallies in his own state, and his name was frequently booed. The failed despot personally has it out for him and has said he'll support a primary challenge, because he's not quite done helping Republicans lose big.
Meanwhile, 51 percent of Georgia voters see Abrams in a positive light. They can also see she's Black, so there's no real surprises there. This includes 10 percent of Republicans. Georgia is purple now, but Kemp can't pivot and pose as a “common-sense moderate" like Charlie Baker in Massachusetts or Larry Hogan in Maryland. He first has to survive a punishing primary.
"I plan on running in 2022. I'm not worried about any kind of primary fight. We'll be victorious. I personally think it's unnecessary," Kemp told the AJC in a recent interview. "I hope at the end of the day people come our way, but if they don't, we'll get them back after a potential primary."
The mad MAGA king has suggested that former Republican Rep. Doug Collins run against Kemp. In December, he said: "Doug, you want to run for governor in two years? He'd be a good-looking governor."
This is what Doug Collins looks like in observable reality.
The future of the U.S. Senate AND the direction of this country are on the ballot here in Georgia this January. https://t.co/nkyF4mDaT4— Doug Collins (@Doug Collins)1606746747.0
But this isn't the Miss USA pageant. We hate having to defend Kemp as one of the least overtly corrupt members of the MAGA-fied GOP.
Collins could defeat Kemp with the insurrectionist-in-chief's support, but the dilemma for Republicans is that Biden's predecessor isn't that popular in Georgia.
The AJC reports:
A solid majority of Georgians disapprove of the former president in the weeks since he left office, with 57% giving him an unfavorable rating, compared with just 40% who approved of his performance in the White House.
Though he continues to have strong support from his base, with 84% of Republicans backing him, it's a marked decline from the last AJC poll. That survey, conducted in September, found that 48% of Georgians and 95% of Republicans gave him a positive review.
A sensible politician with these numbers would keep far away from Georgia politics, but that's not who we're dealing with here.
The question for Kemp now is whether he loses in a primary or in a rematch with Abrams. We are fine either way, as long as Abrams moves into the governor's mansion in 2023 if that's what she wants to do.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He writes reviews for the A.V. Club and make believe for Cafe Nordo, an immersive theatre space in Seattle. He's also on the board of the Portland Playhouse theatre. His son describes him as a “play typer guy."