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Who ever heard of an ex-president getting involved in a lieutenant governor’s race? Now we have

By Tom Baxter

Donald Trump just can’t get Georgia off his mind.

“I don’t ever recall a president of the United States endorsing or not endorsing a lieutenant governor candidate,” state Sen. Butch Miller told the Gainesville Times  last week after Trump released a statement that he didn’t endorse or support Miller.

It’s pretty safe to say no one else does, either. Trump has taken on Republicans at the state level elsewhere since the election. He recently accused three legislative leaders in Wisconsin of attempting to cover up the election results, for instance. But Trump has engaged in a level of micromanagement in Georgia which is unmatched in any other state. You’re not likely to find precedents in the history books, either.

Trump’s statement said he wouldn’t be endorsing Miller because he refused to work with other Republicans on “voter fraud and irregularities,” an apparent reference to Miller not signing an amicus brief in support of the Texas suit against Georgia and other states over their election results.

This is the same Butch Miller who gaveled the Senate to order this year when Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan refused to preside over the voting law debate, and who has based his campaign on his support for the voting bill. Not inconsequentially, this is also the same Butch Miller who raised $2 million in five weeks when he got in this race.

Trump’s apparent favorite to take on Miller is state Sen. Burt Jones, who would eat up a lot of Miller’s $2 million if he got in the primary race, plus a lot of his own money as well. Which raises a basic question for Republicans. Expressed simply in dollars, how much can they afford this prolonged battle over the last election?

With the Democratic primary race for this post still unsettled, the Georgia lieutenant governor’s race looks like the Republicans to lose. The likeliest way for them to do that would be to have a divisive primary, which the national leader of their party is encouraging.

While the potential costs of Republican primary races goes up, Democrats are putting together their best collective war chest in several election cycles. U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock reported taking in $7.2 million over the last quarter. He’s got more money in the bank for his Senate race right now than Kemp, the top fundraiser on the Republican side, has for the governor’s race.

Fair Fight, Stacey Abrams’ organization, reported raising $6 million over the past five months, putting the voting rights organization at over $100 million since its founding in the wake of Abrams’ loss in the 2018 governor’s race. That’s Democratic money which can go into a lot of races. Which raises the question again: how much can Republicans afford to spend fighting each other, when the Democrats are gaining a new footing in the battle for dollars?

Miller’s response to the ex-presidential dis was one which has quickly become customary for Republican candidates. He chalked up Trump’s displeasure to some “bad information” he’d been given, and rededicated himself to everything he would have stood for if he’d been Trump’s choice.

It will be interesting to see how that works out for Miller, along with several Republican candidates around the country who’ve drawn Trump’s ire for one reason or another. Sooner or later, something more than a stoical refusal to engage in any way with the former guy is going to be necessary for the party to move on.

We’re approaching Aug. 13, the day MyPillow magnate Mike Lindell has predicted Trump is somehow going to be restored to the presidency. That one is too way out even for Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene to swallow, but just as was the case before Jan. 5, a lot of expectations are being raised on the extreme right. If there’s violence on any scale, Republicans who would have been enthusiastic 2024 Trump supporters may have to assess how long they’re willing to stick with him over 2020.

 

Featured photo sourced via https://twitter.com/Butch_Miller

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Tom Baxter

Tom Baxter has written about politics and the South for more than four decades. He was national editor and chief political correspondent at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and later edited The Southern Political Report, an online publication, for four years. Tom was the consultant for the 2008 election night coverage sponsored jointly by Current TV, Digg and Twitter, and a 2011 fellow at the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas. He has written about the impact of Georgia’s and Alabama's immigration laws in reports for the Center for American Progress. Tom and his wife, Lili, have three adult children and seven grandchildren.

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