Former U.S. President Donald Trump reacts after his speech during a rally at the Iowa States Fairgrounds in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., October 9, 2021.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump reacts after his speech during a rally at the Iowa States Fairgrounds in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., October 9, 2021. Reuters / RACHEL MUMMEY

Georgia Republican Governor Brian Kemp won his party's primary on Tuesday over a challenger endorsed by Donald Trump, marking the former U.S. president's biggest defeat so far in his effort to play kingmaker ahead of November's midterm elections.

Georgia voters were still waiting to see whether Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger also weathered Trump's bid to oust him.

Trump had backed former U.S. Senator David Perdue after Kemp angered him by refusing to try to overturn his defeat in the 2020 election. Edison Research called the race for Kemp, who held a commanding 73%-23% lead over Perdue.

Kemp will face Stacey Abrams, a progressive who secured the Democratic nomination on Tuesday. Kemp beat Abrams in 2018.

"We are going to do everything we can to make damn sure Stacey Abrams doesn't take over the state," Perdue told his supporters Tuesday night, vowing to support Kemp.

The night was not a total loss for Trump. His pick for U.S. Senate, former American football star Herschel Walker, easily won the Republican nomination and will now face Democratic U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock on Nov. 8. And in Texas, the Trump-backed Attorney General Ken Paxton defeated state Land Commissioner George P. Bush in a runoff after the March primary.

The political environment has grown increasingly favorable to Republicans in the run up to November's midterms. According to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll completed on Tuesday, President Joe Biden's approval rating has fallen to 36%, the lowest level of his presidency, reflecting voter worries over rising inflation.

Republicans are favored to win a majority in the U.S. House of Representatives in November, though analysts say Democrats have a better chance of holding onto control of the Senate.

The loss of either chamber would bring Biden's legislative agenda to a halt and give Republicans the power to launch distracting and potentially politically damaging investigations.

Raffensperger, who rejected a plea by Trump in 2020 to "find" enough votes to alter the outcome, faces U.S. Representative Jody Hice, who earned Trump's endorsement and has echoed his fraud claims, in a race that polls suggest is tight.

Raffensperger led Hice 50% to 34%, with more than a third of the expected vote counted, according to Edison Research.

Trump has made more than 190 endorsements since leaving office, mostly for incumbent Republicans who face no serious primary opposition.

He has amassed a mixed record in competitive contests. His nominee for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania, the television host Dr. Mehmet Oz, is in a race still too close to call a week after voting.


Kemp's surging campaign has drawn support from some high-profile Republicans who have themselves been targets for Trump's ire, including Trump's former vice president, Mike Pence.

While the result is a reputational setback for Trump, it does not signify a change in the broad Republican support for Trump's policies. Kemp backers have said they like his hard-line on immigration and pro-business stance.

"Everyone always predicts Trump's downfall but here we are today," Marci McCarthy, chair of the DeKalb County Republican Party, said at a watch party for Perdue. "I think President Trump's presence through many candidates today says everything."

Some Republican leaders have expressed concern that Walker's past, including allegations of domestic violence, could hurt his chances in the general election.

Four other states - Alabama, Texas, Arkansas and Minnesota - were also holding primary elections on Tuesday.

In Alabama, U.S. Representative Mo Brooks, who lost Trump's endorsement after saying it was time to move on from the 2020 election, is among those battling for a Senate seat.

Trump-era White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders won the Republican gubernatorial nomination in Arkansas, Edison projected.

The polls closed in Texas, where a Democrat-on-Democrat congressional runoff election pits Henry Cuellar, the only House Democrat who opposes abortion rights, against progressive challenger Jessica Cisneros.

Elsewhere in Georgia, two Democratic congresswomen, Lucy McBath and Carolyn Bourdeaux, are in a rare incumbent-versus-incumbent primary after Republican lawmakers redrew the state's congressional map. McBath led Bourdeaux 81% to 17% with about a tenth of the expected vote counted, according to Edison Research.

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