The death of the Georgia Republican Party following the 2020 election has been greatly exaggerated. The state has been under the microscope nationally since the 2018 gubernatorial contest when Stacey Abrams lost by over 50,000 votes. Since then, she has been the poster child for non-existent voter suppression in the state and has never conceded the race. Legacy media outlets have given her a platform to spread her lies without challenging her assertions. Democrats take her claims at face value, promoting the idea that Governor Brian Kemp stole the election by executing the Georgia law that requires cleaning up the voter rolls.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) debunked Abrams’s claims on minority voter suppression in 2018. According to their 2019 analysis:
Among those who identified their race to state election officials, 31% of those whose registrations could be canceled are black, while 33% of all registered voters are black. About 63% of the cancellation list is made up of white voters, who account for 59% of all registered voters.
Then 2020 happened. Joe Biden won Georgia by approximately 11,000 votes, primarily thanks to a combination of infusions of cash funded by the Chan-Zuckerberg Foundation into deep-blue urban counties and pandemic anomalies like unmonitored drop boxes and widespread absentee voting. Republicans were slow to recognize what happened and got tangled up in an intra-party battle, driven by the claims of attorneys Lin Wood and Sydney Powell heading into the January Senate runoffs. Democrats won both seats.
There has been fallout as a result. As my colleague Kevin Downey Jr. wrote yesterday, Lt. Governor Geoff Duncan has gone the way of Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) in hating Republican voters in Georgia and decided not to run again. Instead, he is joining the ranks of the Lincoln Project losers launching his own organization, “GOP 2.0,” to fix the Republican Party. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger will have a tough road to reelection. He has begun making the rounds to clearly articulate the accurate story on the 2020 election, beginning with an interview with Glenn Beck on his Friday subscribers-only show on BlazeTV.
While Governor Kemp took a hit among the base, his vocal defense of Georgia’s election integrity law has buoyed him. Attempts by some county Republican organizations to censure him have since fizzled out. He needs to be more vocal about the real issues with the 2020 election, such as uneven funding, and explain how the new Georgia law specifically addresses them to overcome the hard feelings completely.
Democrat-turned-Republican Vernon Jones has announced a primary challenge to Gov. Kemp, using his vocal support of President Trump to boost his credibility. This rhetoric will require Kemp’s campaign to remind voters that the governor’s alignment with President Trump is one reason he defeated former Lt. Governor Casey Cagle in the 2018 primary. Focus on the policies, not the personalities.
Despite the drama, or maybe because of it, the Georgia Republican grassroots appear highly motivated. Georgia Republican Chairman David Shafer is reporting record turnout at recent GOP district meetings, saying that approximately half of the attendees are first-time participants. According to the AJC:
Fury over Trump’s narrow defeat combined with anger at President Joe Biden’s administration helped bring a surge of new faces to the weekend meetings, held in 13 of Georgia’s 14 congressional districts. Many speakers repeated Trump’s false claims of widespread election fraud in Georgia, which have been repeatedly debunked.
The energy is a good sign that the Peach State is not a blue state. However, it also clear that the GOP needs a clear, concise, and unified message about the actual 2020 election anomalies to put any internal strife to rest. The laser focus must be on the damage the Biden administration is already doing to Georgia and the country. It is imperative that Georgia Republicans highlight likely retread challenger Stacey Abrams’s role in Biden’s win and in encouraging boycotts of the state.
The 2022 cycle is eminently winnable for Georgia Republicans with the correct messaging, despite 2020. All the Biden administration had to do was not be insane. Instead, the hard left turn makes it easy to saddle Abrams and Senator Raphael Warnock, along with a few purple-district House Democrats, with all of that baggage.