President Trump on Wednesday lent his support to a Republican Georgia gubernatorial candidate who has cast himself in Trump’s image: self-proclaimed “politically incorrect conservative” Secretary of State Brian Kemp.
Just days before Tuesday’s primary runoff, Trump fired off a tweet backing Kemp over his more staid opponent, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle.
“Brian is tough on crime, strong on the border and illegal immigration,” Trump said. “He loves our Military and our Vets and protects our Second Amendment. I give him my full and total endorsement.”
Kemp thanked Trump and vowed to “unapologetically stand with the President to secure our border, deport criminal aliens, crush street gangs, and ensure a bright and promising future for our families.”
Trump remains wildly popular with Peach State GOP primary voters, and both Cagle and Kemp have fought to position themselves as the Trumpiest candidate in the close race. Cagle has touted his endorsement from the National Rifle Association and stumped with NRA President Ollie North, while Kemp gained national recognition for a series of inflammatory ads, including one in which he promised to personally deport “illegals” in his “big truck.”
Cagle has been dogged by a series of leaked surreptitious recordings created by former GOP primary rival Clay Tippins. In one, Cagle told Tippins that he backed a flawed education bill to damage an opponent. In another, Cagle called the state’s vicious five-man primary a competition to see “who could be the craziest.”
Cagle has lost his lead and is now slightly trailing Kemp for the first time. An Atlanta Journal-Constitution/WSB-TV poll of likely Republican runoff voters released last week had Kemp leading 44 percent to 41 percent.
Around 21 percent of respondents said their main reason for casting a ballot was to support the stronger ally of the President.
Following trump’s endorsement of Kemp, Cagle put on a brave face, tweeting that there were “no hard feelings” and that he “look[ed] forward to receiving” the President’s endorsement against Democrat Stacey Abrams in the fall.