The Tide - notes in the ebb and flow of news

Ahead of its state convention next month in Columbus, the Georgia GOP is — depending on where you stand — either a party in flux or in turmoil.

Last week’s announcement that Donald Trump will travel to Columbus to attend address the convention sets the stage for a remarkable, perhaps unprecedented, scene in the annals of Georgia politics: a former U.S. president will address the convention, while the state’s top Republican, Gov. Brian Kemp, won’t. 

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who has also declared his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination, is also set to attend. 

Some Coastal Georgia Republicans insist that any internal tensions that beset the party are either misunderstood or exaggerated. Young Turks v. the Old Guard? MAGA v. RINO? Establishment v. grassroots? Nonsense. No identity crisis, at all. Just normal organizational churn, they say. Young faces replacing tired old ones a little too set in their ways.

Maybe. Yet Trump’s appearance on June 10 and what else happens at the two-day state convention — in particular, the outcome of elections to the state GOP’s executive committee and debates over party rules — is certain to shed more light on the contours of Georgia’s dominant political party and its chances to help return the White House to Republican hands next year.

Events at the convention will also say much about how the state GOP will compensate for the parallel fundraising and campaign apparatus that Kemp is constructing.

Coastal Georgia Republicans traveling to Columbus next month are plainly hoping that what they view as the stakes in next year’s elections will salve any GOP ills — whether internal party tensions, anger about alleged election fraud in 2020, or misgivings about Trump, the current odds-on-favorite to win the party’s presidential nomination.

Among GOP officials and party regulars, setting aside differences and rallying behind the Republican presidential candidate in 2024 — and fears about what might happen if they don’t — is the running theme.

At a gathering of Ladies on the Right on Skidaway Island last Thursday, Ginger Howard urged Republican activists to set aside their insistence that Trump was cheated out of reelection in 2020 and their disappointment over Herschel Walker’s loss in the U.S. Senate race last year.

“The worst Republican is better than the best Democrat,” said Howard, who lives in Atlanta and is one of two Georgia GOP representatives to the Republican National Committee.

The same theme — winning back the White House to avoid national catastrophe and save the country — was echoed by many of the eight candidates vying for positions on the state GOP executive committee who converged on Skidaway two days later to deliver their pitches for votes to a meeting of the Chatham County GOP.

Putting a Republican — any Republican — in the White House next year is essential, said Brian Pritchard, a conservative north Georgia talk show host and candidate for first vice-chairman.

“There is no Plan B. There’s only Plan A.”

The Tide brings news and observations from The Current’s staff.

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...