'Without his blessing': How Trump's remaining clout with Republicans will be put to the test in May

The month of May looks like it will be when former President and self-proclaimed GOP king-maker Donald Trump learns how much clout he still has in the Republican Party.

Republican gubernatorial primaries in more than half a dozen states, all scheduled for May, have turned into mini-referendums on the former president. As Politico reports, Trump is "directly backing candidates challenging two sitting GOP governors and a flock of other Republicans are running in his image — even without his blessing."

The former president's allies - and opponents - see those May primaries as a test of his staying power and political influence, believing that the outcomes will offer signs of his moxie two years out from the next presidential election.

“The quicker we get through the May primaries,” said Georgia Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, a vocal critic of Trump since the 2020 election who is not seeking reelection this year, “the quicker we’re going to move past Donald Trump and close that chapter.”

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"Georgia presents the most visible test of Trump’s sway over the party, not only in May but arguably during the entire election cycle," according to Politico. "There, Trump has thrown his full support behind former Sen. David Perdue’s primary challenge to Gov. Brian Kemp, whom Trump still blames for not helping overturn his narrow loss in the state during the 2020 election."

Trump has been heavily involved in Perdue’s challenge to Kemp, publicly trying to draw the former senator into the race throughout 2021 before immediately endorsing once Perdue launched his campaign in December.

“President Trump’s endorsement is the most powerful force in politics,” Taylor Budowich, a spokesperson for Trump, said in a statement.

Martha Zoller, a Georgia-based Republican operative who was once a senior aide to both Kemp and Perdue and now hosts a talk radio show in Northeast Georgia, has a decidedly different view.

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“Trump is really a 2015 or later entity,” Zoller told Politico. “Brian Kemp has relationships with people going back 20 years. … It’s a different kind of relationship that Gov. Kemp has with the voters than Trump has with the voters.”