david perdue sarah palin
Georgia candidate for governor David Perdue and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin made a short stop in Savannah to rally the base before Tuesday vote. Credit: Craig Nelson/The Current

Fox News’ latest poll shows Republican gubernatorial candidate David Perdue trailing Brian Kemp by more than 30 points with only days to go before Georgia’s May 24 primary. Atlanta and national media have run multiple stories alleging that Perdue’s campaign is in freefall.

In Savannah on Friday Perdue took 2½ minutes  to tell a reporter why that was wrong.

It took Sarah Palin all of three seconds.

“I’ve always said polls — they’re for strippers and downhill skiers,” quipped Palin, the former Alaskan governor known as the “Wasilla Killa” and the “Klondike Kardashian”.

Like former President Donald Trump, the wisecracking 58-year-old ex-vice presidential candidate and Alaska governor has endorsed Perdue. She flew into Savannah to give the former Georgia senator a last-minute boost to his bid to take on Democrat Stacey Abrams in November. National conservative radio personality John Fredricks added more heft to team Perdue during their media appearance at a VIP terminal at the airport.

Kemp, Palin said, had helped America land in its current mess by allowing “shenanigans” in the 2020 presidential vote count in Georgia. Perdue is the answer to this status quo. “Status quo — that’s Latin for ‘the mess we’re in,’” she added, quoting Ronald Reagan.  

Both national and state pundits view the Kemp-Perdue battle as a key test of Trump’s influence over the national Republican Party. Some Georgia GOP strategists have openly questioned Trump’s commitment to his preferred gubernatorial candidate because of the lack of energy Trump has shown during the primary.  

The former president spoke out Friday debunking an NBC News report highly critical of the former Georgia senator’s campaign against Kemp. The report cited a Georgia Republican survey conducted for Fox News indicating that Perdue is trailing the incumbent governor by 60% to 28%.

“The Kemp Campaign, together with Fake News NBC, has put out a phony narrative that I have given up on David Perdue in Georgia,” Trump posted on Truth Social. “That is completely FALSE! I am with David all the way because Brian Kemp was the WORST Governor in the Country on Election Integrity!”

On the eve of the primary, Trump is going to appear by video at Perdue’s last rally, which is being organized by Fredricks, at a Wild Wings Cafe in Dunwoody, Georgia.

The NBC report quoted anonymous Republicans as saying the former president had no plans to campaign for Perdue in Georgia before Tuesday’s primary.

The story also quoted one person “close to the president” as saying, “David either has a bunch of geniuses working for him — because he’s basically spent no money — or he’s run the most flawed campaign in America.”

Fredericks, a self-described media guru who hosts one of the country’s popular conservative news radio shows, spoke to the array of television cameras set up for Perdue’s event. He described the stakes in Georgia’s primary as nothing less than “MAGA Armageddon.” He predicted that the Republican establishment in Washington, D.C., which he said is trying to crush Trump’s movement, would be shocked at the outcome of Tuesday’s vote. The primary, he said, will be “their Waterloo.”

Governor addresses different crowd

Brian Kemp
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced Friday May 20 that Hyundai will build a electric vehicle and battery manufacturing plant on the Bryan County megasite on I-16.

As Perdue parried, Palin jibed and Fredericks spoke of political apocalypse, about 24 miles away in Bryan County, Gov. Kemp was showing why he has done little wrong in his reelection campaign.

Under a massive tent crowded with onlookers, Kemp formally announced plans by Hyundai Motors to build a new electric vehicle and battery manufacturing facility on a 2,900-acre swath of state-owned land that Atlanta had previously proposed to Rivian, Volvo and Jaguar Land Rover.

President Joe Biden is scheduled to appear Sunday in the South Korean capital Seoul with the chairman of Hyundai Motor Group and to discuss Hyundai’s decision to invest in the Bryan County facility.

The Asian automotive giant will invest $5.54 billion in the plant while non-affiliated suppliers will invest another $1 billion in the project. Construction is expected to begin in January, with full production starting in the first half of 2025. The deal will mean some 8,100 new jobs, the governor’s office said.

“My commitment to hardworking Georgians to make our state the best place to live, work, and raise our families remains steadfast, and with this announcement, which is now the largest economic development project in our state’s history, we will continue working to make Georgia the premier destination for quality companies who are creating the jobs of today, tomorrow, and beyond,” Kemp said.

Using campaign, official stages

The Bryan County announcement is the latest example of Kemp’s deft campaign tactics through the primary.

Gov. Brian Kemp addresses a group of supporters Thursday evening at the Forest City Gun Club.

He has staggered ceremonial signings of conservative-friendly legislation to draw media exposure and provide a rolling reminder to voters about his record of accomplishments.

At a private fundraiser for Kemp at Savannah’s Forest City Gun Club on Thursday, the mood was confident, even celebratory.

Savannah’s local business leaders were out in force, led by Don Waters, CEO of Waters Capital Partners and member of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia, and real estate developers Riki Patel and Mitul Patel.

Mingling with the governor, too, were Rep. Ron Stephens (District 164), Sen. Ben Watson (District 1), Rep. Jesse Petrea (District 166), and Savannah Chatham County Board of Education president candidate Roger Moss.

Wearing campaign swag, 20-something Kemp volunteers and campaign workers idled together, seemingly self-assured about the prospect of having summer jobs in the looming fight against Abrams, if not beyond.

After Petrea introduced him as the most conservative governor in the state’s history, Kemp described himself as the only Republican gubernatorial candidate who can beat Abrams in November and win the fight for the “soul of the state.”

Craig Nelson is a former international correspondent for The Associated Press, the Sydney (Australia) Morning-Herald, Cox Newspapers and The Wall Street Journal. He also served as foreign editor for The...