Courier Herald column for the week of July 23rd:
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp continues to be the subject of rumors, speculation, and even some wishful thinking that he will enter the race to be the Republican nominee for President in 2024. While being strategically coy about his future plans, has tamped down talk that he will become another entrant in an already overcrowded GOP field.
In an interview with CNN’s Kaitlan Collins, he seemed to close the door with a comment that he is “certainly not running.” He also urged the party to close the door on 2020, noting that if President Trump continues to obsess over his lost Presidential election, he would “lose Georgia in November.”
Georgia, it should be noted, is only one of four states currently rated a toss-up by Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball forecast. Arizona, Nevada, and Wisconsin are the other states up for grabs in a projected matchup between President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump.
Both presumed nominees have historically high disapproval ratings. This is a matchup that doesn’t have to happen, and one most independent voters already dread.
There are better alternatives. For them to get the coverage and attention from voters, they’re going to need some help. The narrative and focus of this campaign must be changed.
The country doesn’t need another campaign with Americans of both parties hoping to put the other nominee in jail. We need a contrast on governing principles, with the winner having a mandate to move the country forward and beyond our current morass.
This is why Governor should go to Iowa, and he should bring friends with him. Specifically, Governor Youngkin of Virginia, Former Governor Ducey of swing state Arizona, Governor DeWine of Ohio, and Governor Sununu of New Hampshire, where they will join with Iowa’s Governor, Kim Reynolds.
All of these Republican Governors have at least two things in common. They are wildly popular in their home states, having won their last elections handily (while receiving a higher percentage of votes than President Trump in 2020). They’ve also each been attacked by President Trump for having the temerity to disagree with him.
At least he fights you say? He’s fighting the most accomplished Republican governors in the country. Governors from his own party, because he feels they have been “disloyal” to him.
None of those mentioned are running for President. This gives them standing to say what needs to be said, and draw the contrast the voters must see, without it looking as if it is self-serving campaign rhetoric.
The field of candidates includes quite a few accomplished Governors in their own right, including Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Chris Christie, and Doug Burgum. Senator Tim Scott, while not a Governor, has sufficient policy chops that he must be included in this conversation, especially with regards to crime prevention and criminal justice.
It was President Trump that turned off suburban independents in 2018, 2020, and 2022 elections. The Governor Kemps, and Younkins, and Reynolds demonstrated the resolve to re-open states – from their economies to their schools – and trust Americans to make their own decisions.
These Governors won many of those voters back. They have the potential to re-make the map, moving toss-ups like Georgia into leans Republican status, while making states like Virginia and New Hampshire competitive again.
When they were on the ballot with Trump and/or Trump backed candidates – like Georgia’s Senate seat in 2022 – these voters split their ticket. They don’t like Donald Trump. They do like the stead hands they’ve seen from their state capitols.
It’s easy for media to dismiss those running for President as “second tier” candidates when Trump is happy to provide them the narrative they wish to cover. It would be much harder to ignore Governors canvassing across Iowa, then New Hampshire, to draw the contrast of conservative governance verses the excesses from the federal government over the past three years.
If the narrative is changed in these early voting states, the polls will follow. As the polls change, the entire coverage of this race, and the debate the country needs to have, will also change.
For their part, Democrats seem to be quietly getting this message too. The New York Times has again directed the ire of their opinion page at President Joe Biden, and there seem to be concerted efforts to promote the works of Governors Gavin Newsom of California and Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan. Both are unapologetic progressives, either would be an improvement over our status quo.
The country needs to move forward. The best way to ensure that happens, within the realm of what a group of GOP Governors could do, is take the debate straight to early state voters. They deserve a campaign focused on governance and proven results. Governor Kemp and his friends are well positioned to elevate this debate to where it must be.