Atlanta, Georgia, is less than a 90-minute plane flight from former President Donald Trump's home base of Palm Beach, Florida. But Trump won't be making the quick jump to the Peach State this weekend to campaign for his handpicked candidate for Georgia governor, ex-Sen. David Perdue.
Trump is keeping his distance from Perdue in the waning days ahead of Tuesday's Georgia's Republican gubernatorial primary — even though it was Trump who urged Perdue to jump into the race in a bid to deny Gov. Brian Kemp renomination. Trump blames Kemp for President Joe Biden's 2020 Georgia win, the first by a Democratic nominee in Georgia since 1992, and he provoked Trump's ire for not doing enough to investigate his allegations of election fraud in Georgia.
MIDTERM MEMO: GEORGIA BEDEVILS TRUMP AS KEMP LOOKS TO DISPATCH PERDUE IN GUBERNATORIAL PRIMARY
Trump's lack of campaigning on Perdue's behalf is conspicuous since he's set to schlep nearly cross-country for a May 28 rally in Wyoming with House Republican candidate Harriet Hageman, and Perdue is trailing in the polls as he tries to unseat Kemp.
Perdue's campaign is not spending money on advertising during the last week before the election, while Kemp is spending around $1 million. Perdue is polling at 28% compared to Kemp's 60% according to a Wednesday poll.
Trump on Friday denied he was backing off support for Perdue, pushing back on an NBC News report saying he'd given up on the governor's race.
"The Kemp Campaign, together with Fake News NBC, has put out a phony narrative that I have given up on David Perdue in Georgia," he said in a statement. "That is completely FALSE! I am with David all the way because Brian Kemp was the WORST Governor in the Country on Election Integrity!"
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The Georgia gubernatorial race is putting a spotlight on Trump's effort to sway the internal direction of the Republican Party, especially concerning his claims that he rightfully won the 2020 presidential election. Former Vice President Mike Pence has endorsed Kemp, highlighting the rift even in wings of the GOP that are ideologically similar. Pence and Trump are both mulling 2024 presidential runs.
Trump's other big Georgia pick, former football player Herschel Walker, is expected to win the GOP nomination to challenge Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock.