The Georgia Republican Unscathed by Walker’s Defeat

Republicans, still reeling from Herschel’s loss in Georgia, continue to assign blame. But one man seems to be above reproach: Governor. Brian P. Kemp.

After a series of provocative 2018 campaign ads, the Republican governor of the state was once branded an unhinged far right disruptor. He has now emerged as one of his party’s most savvier political operator following Tuesday’s Senate election.

On Nov. 8, Mr. Kemp was re-elected by an eight-point margin. This is a remarkable turnaround for a politician who went through the process of being booed at his May primary events to defeating Stacey Abrams, a national Democratic star. He was able to delicately balance providing support for Mr. Walker while not being hurt by his defeat, proving Mr. Kemp’s remarkable political instincts, both Republicans within and outside of the state stated.

In the face of Donald J. Trump’s mercurial opposition, he has survived and even thrived. After initially earning Mr. Trump’s endorsement, Mr. Kemp became Mr. Trump’s political enemy and overcame a primary challenge Mr. Trump had created. Trump abruptly switched gears just before the Georgia general election and encouraged his supporters to vote for Kemp.

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He has created a model for Republicans by showing them how to use Trump’s attacks to build an independent political brand, not lose support from his loyal base. His ability to navigate the crosscurrents of the Republican Party, as well as an election performance in which he outperformed Mr. Trump in key suburban swing districts, have raised his national profile. This has fueled speculation about his future plans and a possible run for president in 2024.

Stephen Lawson, a Georgia-based Republican strategist and who managed a pro-Walker super PAC, stated that Brian Kemp’s ceiling is very high right now. He will have a tremendous platform going forward, regardless of whether it’s the U.S. Senate within four years, whether that’s potentially looking into ’24 stuff, or just being a really great governor and a voice to your party.

He is a former Athens homebuilder. His two-decade long political career has been built on luck, skill, and occasionally provocations. In one 2018 TV commercial, he pointed his shotgun at an actor who was playing a suitor for one of his daughters. He has a slow Southern drawl and speaks slowly. As a graduate of the University of Georgia he is the fan-in chief of its football team. Mr. Walker was instrumental in leading them to the 1980 national championship.

Democratic critics of the governor claim that Kemp’s loyalty to far-right orthodoxy has caused harm to the state. He signed a 2019 restrictive abortion law, which effectively bans the procedure following six weeks of pregnancy. He also refused to expand Medicaid under Affordable Care Act. This decision has led to the state losing billions of dollars in federal funding for health care.

Even his critics admit to his ability to present himself as a witty Georgian and make his case in small rural communities handshake to handshake. He built relationships with many local shot-callers in Georgia’s 159 county sheriffs and tax assessors during his eight years as secretary of state. These ties probably helped him to evade Mr. Trump’s attacks on him among local Republican officials after the 2020 election.

“His success is now a result all these touches over time — that ‘How’s your mama? “How’s your daddy?” is the kind of thing State Senator Jen Jordan, a Democrat, and vocal Kemp critic said. Ms. Jordan stated that such a face-toface approach may be effective locally and statewide but not beyond that. She added, “Is that something that you can do at a national level like running for president?”

In a recent interview, Kemp spoke highly of his political style. He said that it was precisely that type of outreach and willingness campaign among all those who don’t support him that helped him win reelection. He also offered his own analysis on the midterm elections, saying that candidates who made proposals for the future were more successful then those who focused solely on Donald Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign.

Mr. Kemp stated that people who were looking at the rearview mirror or the ’20 cycles did not have a great night. We had a great night thanks to people who looked forward and gave people reasons to vote for them.

He stated that Republicans want to “support somebody that can win.”

Georgia’s Senate race saw Mr. Walker as a scandal-plagued, gaffe-prone candidate. He had Mr. Trump’s blessing. Mr. Trump once promised to remove Mr. Kemp from power because Mr. Trump had refused to overturn the state’s defeat in 2020.

However, Mr. Walker was the most revered Georgia football player in history. He also ignited Georgia’s Trumpist grass roots constituency, which overlaps with Mr. Kemp. Mr. Kemp was able to help Mr. Walker in a way that showed he was a team player. However, it is difficult to blame Mr. Walker for his loss.

Kemp gave elements of his campaign machine, which included more than 200 paid staffers to the Senate Leadership Fund. This political action committee was aligned to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and put them to work in support of Mr. Walker. Kemp aired one TV advertisement for the Senate Leadership Fund, and appeared at one pro Walker rally and fund-raiser during the runoff.

The advertisement did not endorse Mr. Walker’s character. He was accused of lying about his past and paying ex-girlfriends for abortions. Instead, Mr. Kemp claimed that voting for Mr. Walker was an important strategic decision. In the Senate Leadership Fund ad, Mr. Kemp stated that Herschel Walker would vote for Georgia and not another rubber stamp for Joe Biden.

It was enough to satisfy powerful Georgia Republicans.

Alec Poitevint said, “Herschel is this football hero that we have that we have great respect for, so I’m glad Brian made every effort in getting Herschel elected,” he was a long-standing force in state politics and former treasurer to the Republican National Committee.

In the 2018 Republican primary for governor, Mr. Kemp was considered an underdog. After recordings of Casey Cagle, the Republican front-runner for governor, were made, Mr. Kemp said that he compared Republican primary voters to “a basket full of deplorables.” This was a phrase Hillary Clinton used to describe half of Trump’s 2016 supporters. Ms. Abrams was defeated by Mr. Kemp in the general election of that year. This was despite her fund-raising skills and status as a national celebrity.

His first four years as president were fraught with difficulties, including Ahma’s racist murder