Gloves off: Trump spokesman slams Pence before rally with Brian Kemp in Georgia

Pence has been practically begging TrumpWorld to take a swing at him, per the Times. He called Trump un-American for believing he could overturn the election on January 6, pointedly visited the memorial to Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, and is holding an election-eve rally with Trump’s nemesis, Brian Kemp, in Georgia tonight. What’s a guy gotta do to land on the Trump sh*t list?

The Kemp rally was the final straw, it seems. Pence has finally made the list.

We’re really going to get a Trump vs. Pence primary in 2024, eh?

After four years of service bordering on subservience, the increasingly emboldened Mr. Pence is seeking to reintroduce himself to Republican voters ahead of a potential presidential bid by setting himself apart from what many in the G.O.P. see as the worst impulses of Mr. Trump. He’s among a small group in his party considering a run in 2024 no matter what Mr. Trump decides

Mr. Pence grew close with Mr. Kemp during the pandemic and 2020 campaign, and now he is lining up against Mr. Trump’s handpicked candidate, former Senator David Perdue. But more than that, Mr. Pence is seeking to claim a share of credit in what’s expected to be the starkest repudiation yet of Mr. Trump’s attempt to consolidate power, with Mr. Kemp widely expected to prevail…

“Mike Pence was set to lose a governor’s race in 2016 before he was plucked up and his political career was salvaged,” said Taylor Budowich, the spokesman. “Now, desperate to chase his lost relevance, Pence is parachuting into races, hoping someone is paying attention. The reality is, President Trump is already 82-3 with his endorsements, and there’s nothing stopping him from saving America in 2022 and beyond.”

It’s not really all-out war until Trump himself posts something nasty on Truth Social. It’ll happen tomorrow for sure, if not tonight.

I continue not to understand why Pence thinks he has a ghost of a chance against Trump in a primary. Sure, he has more name recognition than any Republican apart from Trump himself, but that’s an 80/20 race at best. The most Pence can hope to do is wound Trump ahead of the general election by baiting him into making 2020 a key line of attack. The more Trump harps on his “rigged election” conspiracy theories — which will be almost four years old by the time of the next primaries — the more he risks annoying swing voters. “We are Trump supporters,” said one woman in Georgia to the Times about her “stop the steal” fatigue. “But everything that comes out of someone’s mouth is not necessarily true.”

Would Pence really bother with that sort of kamikaze campaign, though? Liz Cheney would because she believes something bigger than her own career ambitions is at stake in stopping Trump. I’m not sure Pence does.

Then again, he’s a man of few words. Maybe he’s taken a Cheney-esque turn privately, having seen firsthand on January 6 how malevolent Trump can be, and has quietly sworn to do everything he can to keep him out of the White House.

If so, the best thing he could do for the party and the country is bow out of 2024 and back the one guy with an actual chance of beating Trump.

Republican Party of Wisconsin conventioneers voting in a straw poll were split on whether they want to see Donald Trump run for president again.

Even with the former president in the mix, a plurality of party activists preferred Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for the GOP nomination in 2024…

Viewing a potential 2024 GOP field, nearly 38 percent (122) backed DeSantis. Trump was second at 32 percent (104), while former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley was a distant third at just more than 7 percent (24).

That’s a highly unscientific poll, but any poll that has Trump trailing another Republican is noteworthy. I’ve seen only one other and that came from DeSantis’s home state.

As for how Kemp arrived at the brink of routing Trump and his proxy in Georgia after being left for dead by observers last year, he owes it to his own political cunning and a healthy bit of luck. Kemp was crafty in pulling levers to reward allies and punish rivals as he scrambled to earn endorsements in his home state. He bribed voters too, ordering a temporary gas-tax holiday, and timed the announcement of Hyundai’s new plant in Georgia for maximum political impact. He got a lift from other Trump frenemies on the right in the form of the Republican Governors Association, which reportedly spent $5 million in Georgia to boost him. We would have rather spent that money to beat Democrats, said Chris Christie, but “it was made necessary because Donald Trump decided on the vendetta tour this year and so we need to make sure we protect these folks who are the objects of his vengeance.”

The RGA is calculating that an exquisitely painful loss for Trump in Georgia tomorrow may deter him from extending his “vendetta tour” to other incumbents in the future.

As for the luck part, it was Kemp’s good fortune to have Stacey Abrams running again this year:

One Georgia Republican told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he’s a diehard Trump supporter but is backing Kemp for strategic reasons. “I’d do anything to stop Abrams,” he said. “She’s such a bleeding-heart liberal and so socialist-leaning you can’t help but to hate her.” With a less formidable Democrat as nominee, Republican voters there might have felt bolder about rolling the dice on Perdue. With Abrams leading the ticket, though, even MAGA fans are playing it safe and sticking with the incumbent.

Oh, there’s one more thing to which Kemp owes his success — his shrewd, if horribly depressing, discipline in refusing to attack Trump. “I had a great relationship with President Trump. I’ve never said anything bad about him,” he told reporters this morning. “I don’t plan on doing that. I’m not mad at him. I think he’s just mad at me. And that’s something that I can’t control.” That’s not a human response; after all the bile Trump has directed at Kemp, Kemp should be and surely is furious at him. From the beginning, though, Kemp wagered that he could survive being attacked by Trump so long as he didn’t attack him back. He ran laser-focused on his record instead, believing that victory would be the best revenge. He’s about to win his wager. And to celebrate, he’s giving Trump a symbolic slap by bringing Mike Pence to Georgia to celebrate with him.

I’ll leave you with this. Trump is phoning it in for Perdue in the end — literally.

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