On Tuesday, CNN reported that Georgia Republican officials are upset and concerned by former President Donald Trump's attacks on Gov. Brian Kemp and mock endorsement of Democratic voting rights activist and former state Senate Minority Leader Stacey Abrams to replace him in 2022 — but many of them are still too worried about reprisal from Trump's voting base to criticize him directly over it.
"The former President's criticism of Kemp now includes hyping Democrat Stacey Abrams as a preferable alternative to the GOP governor, whose crime against Trump was staying out of his attempt to overturn the Georgia 2020 election returns," reported Michael Warren. "'Having her, I think, might be better than having your existing governor, if you want to know what I think,' Trump said Saturday at his rally in Perry, adding later, 'Stacey, would you like to take his place? It's OK with me.'"
Trump has been furious at Kemp ever since President Joe Biden won the state of Georgia last year. The former president expected Kemp and other GOP officials he endorsed like Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to step in and prevent Georgia's electors going to Biden. Although they swiftly enacted a package of controversial new voter restrictions going forward, Kemp and Raffensperger bluntly told Trump there was nothing in the law to let them overturn the election.
According to the report, however, Republicans are divided over how to respond to Trump's behavior, fearful that efforts to criticize him could simply make officials like Kemp even more divisive.
"Despite Trump's loss in Georgia last year, he remains a popular figure among the Republican base in the state. Candidates get nowhere with their own voters by taking Trump on directly," said the report. "'What they don't put up with is you attacking him, because then it is Trump and them against you. They see themselves as Trump's people, Trump's followers, Trump's defenders,' said a senior GOP official who is loyal to Kemp. 'As long as you don't make him the victim ... that's the only needle to thread.' So far, neither Kemp nor his campaign has responded publicly to Trump's taunts. His office declined to comment for this story."
Abrams, who was Kemp's opponent in 2018, has not yet formally decided if she will mount a rematch in 2022.