Contentious Georgia GOP runoff tests Trump voters' loyalty
ATLANTA (AP) — Today's bruising gubernatorial runoff in Georgia is testing the loyalty of Republican voters to President Donald Trump and their continuing appetite for rejecting the establishment in favor of bare-knuckled outsider politics.
The matchup between Secretary of State Brian Kemp and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle pits the White House, which backs Kemp, against outgoing Republican Gov. Nathan Deal, who backs Cagle. Democrat Stacey Abrams awaits the winner in the fall, seeking to become the first black female governor of any American state.
A well-known figure at the Georgia Capitol, Cagle entered the Republican race as the presumed front-runner, with financial backing from much of the state's lobbying class. Even as a statewide elected official, Kemp positioned himself as a "politically incorrect conservative" outsider perpetually battling liberal Democrats and Republican insiders.
Both Republicans have tried to align themselves with Trump, while taking hard lines on immigration, guns and social issues.
But as both men swung to the right during the extended Republican contest, Cagle has been widely viewed as the candidate most likely to tack to the center in a general election campaign. The question is whether such apparent moderation is a liability that will prevent him from getting past Republican primary voters Kemp courted with ads featuring guns, chain saws and a pickup truck to "round up criminal illegals."
Cagle led the initial five-man primary in May, but fell well shy of the majority required to avoid a runoff. The two months since have been a cascade of problems for the veteran politician, and public polls suggest Kemp has closed the gap.