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Republican voters in Georgia on Tuesday showed there are limits to how seriously the party will entertain former President Donald Trump’s grievances.
Election deniers endorsed by Trump were trounced in a series of primaries against Republican officials who had rejected the former President lies about the 2020 election being stolen — but had otherwise enacted conservative policies popular with GOP voters.
Tuesday’s primaries in Georgia, Alabama and Arkansas and primary runoffs in Texas were overshadowed by the deadly shooting at an elementary school in Texas.
But the results could have implications across the Republican Party — forcing Trump to recalculate his involvement in intra-party contests, giving candidates who aren’t endorsed by the former President a roadmap to winning without his support, and offering, if only briefly, a glimpse at a party in which Trump’s fights aren’t the only things that matter.
Here are key takeaways from Tuesday’s elections:
Georgia Republicans reject Trump’s bids for vengeance
Trump spent more than a year vowing payback and promising to recruit and support primary challengers, after Georgia Republican state officials rejected his lies about fraud costing him the 2020 election there.
On Tuesday, those Republicans targeted by the former President didn’t just win — they crushed their Trump-backed opponents.
Gov. Brian Kemp beat his challenger, former Sen. David Perdue, by 50 percentage points. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger fended off a stronger challenge from Rep. Jody Hice. And Attorney General Chris Carr easily dispatched attorney John Gordon.
It was the most embarrassing primary showing for Trump yet, and demonstrated that while Trump remains the GOP’s dominant figure, capable of steering outcomes in some open-seat races, there are limits to his influence — and many Republican voters are willing to ignore the former President’s wishes.
“Conservatives across our state didn’t listen to the noise,” Kemp said at his victory party at the College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta on Tuesday night. “They didn’t get distracted. They knew our record of fighting and winning for hard-working Georgians.”
Georgia to be the center of the political universe once again
A hotly contested gubernatorial rematch and a star-studded Senate showdown: Tuesday’s primaries made clear that, much like in 2020, Georgia will be the center of the political universe in 2022.
Kemp is set for a rematch against Stacey Abrams, the former state legislative leader who rose to national prominence during and after her near-miss against Kemp in the 2018 governor’s race.
The pressure is on Abrams, who now must prove that her strong showing in 2018, in a favorable year for Democrats, was not the high-water mark of her political career. She surprised some with her strength four years ago —something that won’t happen this November after four years on the national scene — but her political operation is more developed, too.
Meanwhile, now that former football star Herschel Walker is officially the Republican Senate nominee in Georgia, he’ll square off against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock, whose election in an early 2021 runoff helped give Democrats their thinnest of Senate majorities.
The race will be expensive — Warnock has turned into a fundraising powerhouse and Republicans have shown they are willing to spend millions on Walker — but will go a long way to determining which party controls the Senate for the next two years.
Alabama Senate race advances to runoff
The Alabama Senate candidate that Trump backed away from is advancing to a runoff.
In the Republican primary to replace retiring Sen. Richard Shelby, former Shelby chief of staff and Alabama Business Council chief executive Katie Britt led the pack, but fell short of the 50% required to avoid a runoff.
In second place, and set to square off with Britt in the runoff, is Rep. Mo Brooks — the staunch conservative congressman whom Trump had previously endorsed. But when Brooks dropped in the polls months before the primary, Trump rescinded his endorsement.
Trump claimed he had withdrawn his support for Brooks because he had gone “woke” by suggesting Republicans should look forward to 2022 and 2024, rather than focusing on Trump’s grievances about the 2020 election. However, anti-abortion rights organizations and other Republicans, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, stuck with the Alabama congressman.
The winner of the June 21 runoff is all but certain to win in November in the deep-red state.
Read more takeaways below: