Dem 51
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GOP 49
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What about Brian?

Amy Walter, who has taken over the Cook Political Report from Charlie Cook, has an interesting column about Gov. Brian Kemp (R-GA). We don't agree with her, but she is a serious enough political observer that anything she says is worth at least considering.

She starts out by noting that polls this far out aren't worth much. In 2011 at this point, polls from Gallup and CNN showed it to be a three-way race among Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, and Mitt Romney. Palin and Huckabee didn't exactly pan out. In 2015, then-governor of Wisconsin Scott Walker was the chosen one. And although Walter didn't mention it, in 2007, the pundits knew that it would be Hillary vs. Rudy in 2008. Her point is that frontrunners are in the spotlight but also under a microscope and the media are not very forgiving of mistakes. Ron DeSantis could easily make some unforced error—not necessarily about wokeism—and thereby take himself out of contention. Macaca, anyone? Or Trump could train his guns on him and take him down. Then what?

Enough Republicans dislike Donald Trump that there is probably an opening for at least one opponent. Walter sees Gov. Brian Kemp (R-GA) as formidable opponent for Trump. He has won twice in a purple state, both times against a very well funded and organized Democrat, Stacey Abrams. His approval rating statewide is a whopping 62%. Among Georgia Republicans, he clocks in at 90% approval (vs. 71% approval for Trump). He is conservative, but not crazy. In a national campaign, he could point out that in 2020, he defended the law, not Trump. That could win support of many independents.

This is an interesting argument, but our take is that if DeSantis stumbles, there are half a dozen other Republicans who are better known than Kemp and are ready to fill the void, ranging from the Mikes (Pence and Pompeo) all the way down to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) if the Republicans get truly desperate. Also, Kemp knows that he is a long shot for getting the nomination and an even longer shot at beating a sitting president. We think it more likely that he will challenge Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-GA) in 2026 when he would be the overwhelming favorite to get the GOP nomination and be maybe 50-50 to win the seat. Then, as a sitting senator not up in 2028, he could mount his presidential campaign. If Biden runs and wins in 2024, then he wouldn't have to run against an incumbent in 2028. If Trump wins in 2024, he will also not be in the 2028 race. Everything Walter said, notwithstanding, this strikes us as a less risky path to the White House for Kemp than running in 2024. (V)

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