Aug. 23, 2021 — The Fabrizio Lee polling firm, conducting a survey for former President Donald Trump’s Save America PAC, recently tested former US Sen. David Perdue opposite the Georgia Republican gubernatorial field including the party’s incumbent, Brian Kemp.
At this point, Perdue has not indicated that he will be on the ballot for any office in 2022, but that did not stop the Trump pollsters from releasing data showing how he would fare as a gubernatorial candidate. Former DeKalb County Executive and ex-state Rep. Vernon Jones, a former Democrat who became a Trump spokesman during the 2020 campaign, is Gov. Kemp’s principal challenger to date.
The Fabrizio Lee poll (Aug. 11-12; 500 likely Georgia Republican primary voters, including 100 Independents who plan to vote in the Republican primary, live interview) finds Gov. Kemp still saddled with tepid approval numbers from the GOP base. His favorability index is 69:27 percent favorable to unfavorable, which does show weakness for an incumbent within his own political party. Comparatively, Trump’s favorability index is 93:6 percent.
In the four-way primary Gov. Kemp fails to reach 50 percent, which would force a runoff vote if this poll were the final electoral result. The ballot test finds the governor leading 41-19-16-3 percent over Jones, Perdue and announced candidate Kandiss Taylor, respectively. The Perdue number is also weak, but his standing changes when another piece of information is given the respondents.
The pollsters isolated Gov. Kemp and ex-Sen. Perdue after telling the survey participants that Trump would support Purdue. Knowing that, the two-way test yields a Kemp lead of only 46-40 percent, with 25 percent saying they are “definitely” voting for Kemp while 20 percent would “definitely” support Perdue. The remainder favoring each man said they would “probably” vote for their stated individual.
The paradigm changes when all of the candidates are added to the ballot test with the respondents having the information that Trump supports Perdue. Under this scenario, it is Perdue who assumes the lead with 41 percent, while Gov. Kemp posts just 26 percent. Jones records 14 percent, and Taylor, a minor 2020 US Senate candidate, again attracts three percent support.
The Trump endorsement also played a factor in the responses for the US Senate race. Here, former University of Georgia and NFL football star Herschel Walker easily outdistances state Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black. Walker has not committed to run, while Black is an announced candidate.
The first ballot test finds Walker holding a commanding 54-5 percent lead over Commissioner Black. When the respondents are informed that Trump supports the former Georgia football icon, the ballot test balloons to 67-4 percent in Walker’s favor.
This is the first publicly released Georgia Republican gubernatorial nomination survey, and it is obvious that Gov. Kemp still suffers from a relative lack of confidence from within the bedrock GOP base. Most, if not all, of this stems from his handling of the voter fraud allegations that occurred post-election when Georgia became a key focal point of the national controversy.
Whether Perdue decides to run for governor is doubtful at best. This poll, however, is likely to initiate more political rumors and speculation, which will make it even more challenging for Gov. Kemp to unite the party behind him as he moves into what will again be a difficult general election.
Stacey Abrams, the 2018 Democratic gubernatorial nominee and former state House Minority Leader who has become a national figure within her party, has not formally declared for governor but there is little doubt that she plans to run again. In the previous election, she lost to Kemp, then the Georgia Secretary of State, by 54,723 votes of more than 3.9 million ballots cast, a margin of 50.2 – 48.8 percent; a close race that proved a harbinger of the 2020 presidential result.
Like former President Trump, Abrams challenged the outcome of the race and charged that voter suppression led to her defeat. The stage is set for a 2022 re-match between Kemp and Abrams, but early indications suggest Georgia politics have significantly changed since their first campaign.