Former Vice President Mike Pence will campaign with Georgia’s incumbent Republican Gov. Brian Kemp the day before this month’s GOP primary, despite former President Donald Trump’s endorsement of rival candidate David Purdue.
In other words, Pence has made his most significant political break with former Trump to date… and there may be more to come.
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Kemp’s campaign announced Friday morning that Pence will headline a get-out-the-vote rally for Kemp on Monday, May 23, the day before the vote. That puts Pence in direct conflict with Perdue, a Trump-endorsed candidate, who has been trailing in the polls.
“Brian Kemp is my friend, a man dedicated to faith, family and the people of Georgia,” Pence said in a statement. “I am proud to offer my full support for four more years of Brian Kemp as governor of the great state of Georgia!”
The news comes as Pence has taken steps to distance himself from Trump as the former congressman and Indiana governor considers a 2024 presidential run that could put him into direct competition with his former boss.
That has included calling out Trump by name. In February, Pence said Trump was “wrong” to insist that Pence had the power to unilaterally overturn the results of the 2020 election — a power vice presidents do not possess.
In a separate speech before top Republican donors, Pence urged the GOP to move on from Trump’s effort to relitigate the 2020 election.
“Elections are about the future,” Pence said in March. “My fellow Republicans, we can only win if we are united around an optimistic vision for the future based on our highest values. We cannot win by fighting yesterday’s battles, or by relitigating the past.”
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Pence has also released his own 28-page statement of intended policies, paving the way for a run in 2024. He calls it the Freedom Agenda.
Trump has yet to mention Pence by name. However, Trump has already excoriated three other current and former Republican governors — Arizona’s Doug Ducey, Nebraska’s Pete Ricketts and New Jersey’s Chris Christie — for supporting Kemp.
Trump branded these three governors as as “RINOs” or “Republicans in Name Only.”
“That tells you all you need to know about what you are getting in Georgia—just a continuation of bad elections and a real RINO if you vote for Brian Kemp,” Trump said.
“Maybe the ‘R’ in RINO really stands for re-elected,” Christie quipped back.
Kemp had been substantially ahead of Perdue in polls in March and April, and many expect Kemp will be able to prevail without a June runoff, which would be triggered if no candidate won a majority of the vote.
Perdue, a former senator, has also been lagging in fundraising and had about $900,000 cash on hand on April 30, less than a month before the May 24 primary, while Kemp had $10.7 million.
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The winner will face Democrat Stacey Abrams, who lost to Kemp in the 2018 race for governor.
If Kemp wins, then Pence will have endorsed a winner. After that, the former vice president may pursue higher goals.
The Horn editorial team and the Associated Press contributed to this article.