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Republicans fret Trump 'tension' in Georgia endangers 2022 ticket

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Top Georgia Republicans fear infighting stoked by former President Donald Trump is poised to upend party efforts to defend the governor’s mansion and recapture a crucial Senate seat.

As Trump ally Herschel Walker moves toward a Senate bid that would pair him with Gov. Brian Kemp, a foe of the former president, at the top of the ticket, Republicans worry that the party is on track to field a divided 2022 slate. Walker has publicly chastised Kemp over his handling of the 2020 election, echoing Trump’s complaints — criticism that the governor rejects. Those differences could make working together near impossible if both win their primaries.

Republicans worry that the schism would open the door to a Democratic takeover of the governor’s mansion and dash hopes of ousting incumbent Sen. Raphael Warnock, a dynamic Democrat who many of them believe is underestimated outside of Georgia.

“United we win, divided we lose,” former Rep. Jack Kingston, a Georgia Republican, said Wednesday.

“There’s going to be lots of tension on the ballot if Herschel runs,” added a Republican operative in Georgia, who requested anonymity in order to speak candidly about what has become a sensitive subject in GOP circles.

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Despite Walker’s political vulnerabilities, Georgia Republicans are intrigued, believing that the former star athlete at the University of Georgia and in the National Football League might neutralize some of Warnock’s strengths and attract new voters to the GOP. Trump has practically endorsed Walker, a move that has largely (although not entirely) frozen the field of possible Republican Senate candidates uninterested in running against the former president’s pick.

What concerns Republicans are Trump’s refusal to accept his narrow loss in Georgia last November and his dogged opposition to Kemp’s reelection. If Walker is their Senate nominee and Kemp is renominated in the June primary, as expected, Georgia Republicans fret that both campaigns could be undermined by a lack of mutual coordination and messaging that looks backward to the last election, rather than forward to the next.

Some Republican insiders in the state believe that the challenges created by having Kemp and Walker lead the ticket would be manageable. That’s at least, they say, as long as Trump shelves his criticism of the governor once the general election is underway and refrains from discouraging grassroots conservatives to vote by fomenting distrust of Georgia’s electoral system.

“Certainly, if Herschel Walker runs, it does make things a little bit complicated,” said Chip Lake, a Republican strategist in Georgia who advised former Rep. Doug Collins in his Senate bid last year. “But we will do our best to navigate around it.”

Other than differences over the 2020 presidential election spurred by Trump, Georgia Republicans say Kemp, 57, and Walker, 59, have a good relationship. They share an affinity for the University of Georgia and are both close with Vince Dooley and his wife Barbara. Dooley was Walker’s head coach when he played football for the University of Georgia, presiding over several league titles and a national championship before he retired in the late 1980s.

Some Republicans are convinced there is no way that Kemp and Walker would be able to maintain good relations. Trump would likely travel to Georgia to headline rallies for Walker, during which they expect he would trash the governor. Both Kemp and Walker would be asked about this nonstop, creating frustration on both sides — but especially in the governor’s camp, if Walker said he agreed with the former president’s criticism of Kemp’s handling of the last election.

Other Georgia Republicans are more sanguine that Kemp and Walker would manage to unify behind a common political goal of defeating their Democratic opponents and boosting the GOP down-ticket. “I think Walker and Kemp would get along fine,” a party strategist in the Peach State said.

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Tags: News, Campaigns, 2022 Elections, 2020 Elections, Donald Trump, Brian Kemp, Herschel Walker, Georgia, Republican Party, Raphael Warnock, Congress

Original Author: David M. Drucker

Original Location: Republicans fret Trump 'tension' in Georgia endangers 2022 ticket

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