Georgia primary poses major test for Trump’s drive to remake the GOP

Nelita Collins

WASHINGTON — If it’s Thursday … A Russian airstrike on a maternity hospital kills at least three Ukrainians. … Vice President Harris faces a diplomatic test in Poland. … President Biden meets at the White House with Colombia’s president, and then addresses the DNC. … The House passes government spending bill with nearly $14 billion for Ukraine, but only after Covid funding was stripped from legislation. … And Sens. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., and Ron Johnson, R-Wis., release new TV ads aimed at the middle of the electorate.

But first: Donald Trump has a lot on the line in May’s upcoming GOP gubernatorial primary in Georgia.

The former president has starred in three different TV ads that challenger David Perdue has aired against incumbent Republican Gov. Brian Kemp.

“Brian Kemp let us down,” Trump says to camera in one of these ads. “We can’t let it happen again. David Perdue is an outstanding man. He’s tough, he’s smart, he has my complete and total endorsement.”

He’s also trailing in the primary, according to a poll Fox News released on Tuesday, with Kemp at 50 percent among GOP primary voters and Perdue at 39 percent.

Trump remains popular among Georgia Republican primary voters, with 79 percent viewing him favorably, versus 19 percent unfavorably, per the poll. But the only significant subgroup that Perdue carries against Kemp are GOP primary voters who have a “strongly” favorable view of Trump.

What’s more, Kemp is also popular among Republicans (with a favorable/unfavorable rating of 68 percent to 28 percent), while Perdue is equally well-liked (66 percent to 26 percent).

Of course, this is just one poll. And there are still two months to go until the state’s May 24 primary.

But Perdue — and Trump — have some work to do to avoid losing a primary that the former president has tried to single-handedly turn into a referendum on him and his 2020 election loss in the state.

And right now, the race appears to boil down to a single question: Is Trump’s grievance against Kemp enough by itself to fire the state’s governor?

Tweet of the day

Data Download: The number of the day is … 29.6 percent

That’s the two-week decline in average daily Covid deaths in America, per NBC News, down to 1,385.

It’s a mark that’s trailing a dramatic decrease in Covid cases over that same period — daily average Covid cases has dropped more than 52 percent over the last two weeks, now averaging just 41,794 a day (down hundreds of thousands since the omicron peak).

Other numbers you need to know today:

$15.6 billion: How much Democrats initially wanted to spend on pandemic relief in their latest spending package, but the spending was eventually cut so the package could pass.

0: The number of Republican Latinas who have represented Texas in Congress (although that could change this election cycle).

2,316,002: The number of refugees who have fled Ukraine since Feb. 24, according to the United Nations.

79,595,303: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 49,891 more since yesterday morning.)

966,280: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 1,983 more since yesterday morning.)

Midterm roundup

Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., and Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., won’t know their opponents until their states’ August primaries. In the meantime, Kelly and Johnson are focusing on the general election, releasing ads yesterday aimed at moderate voters.

Kelly’s 30-second spot touts his work on the bipartisan infrastructure package, with the Democrat saying “These aren’t Democratic priorities or Republican priorities. They’re Arizona priorities and we’re getting it done.”

Johnson featured Markeitha Smith in his latest ad. She was married to the late pastor of a Black church in Milwaukee who died after contracting Covid. Smith makes a thinly veiled reference to some of Johnson’s controversial comments, saying, “The best advice I could ever give a person is before you listen to what somebody else has to say, please get to know a person for yourself.”

Elsewhere on the campaign trail:

Rep. Conor Lamb, D-Penn., placed his first TV ad buy in the Pennsylvania Democratic Senate primary tracked by AdImpact, spending $198,000 on cable. In that race, Lt. Gov. John Fetterman has a new bio spot on the air. And in West Virginia, Republican Rep. David McKinley is running a new spot recounting the times fellow GOP Rep. Alex Mooney didn’t vote with former President Donald Trump, even though Trump is backing Mooney.

Wyoming’s legislature failed to take up a bill backed by Trump to prohibit voters from changing their party affiliations the same day as the primary election, effectively killing the legislation, per The Casper Star Tribune.

The Republican State Leadership Committee is out with its roadmap for 2022, per Politico, as it looks to maintain control of legislatures in key states like Arizona, Michigan and Wisconsin, while also pressing into states like Colorado and Minnesota.

In redistricting news, Louisiana Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards vetoed the new congressional map passed by the state legislature. And Wisconsin Republican members of Congress asked the Supreme Court to toss out its new map.

NBC’s Allan Smith looks at how a battle over residency requirements has ensnared a Trump-endorsed House candidate in Tennessee.

Ad watch: Villains Anonymous

Republican state Rep. Russell Fry released his first ad in the 2022 cycle online this week. Fry, who is running against incumbent GOP Rep. Tom Rice in South Carolina’s 7th District, cast a Rice lookalike in the ad.

The actor attends a “Villains Anonymous” meeting with some familiar faces like The Joker, Maleficent and Captain Hook.

“I’m a politician and I said I was for term limits, but I’ve been in Washington more than 10 years and I supported raising taxes, and I even voted to impeach Donald Trump,” the Rice lookalike tells the group gathered around him before they eject him from the meeting.

Fry has booked over $9,000 worth of airtime and his campaign released the commercial online Wednesday.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Top American officials fear that Russia might mount a false-flag operation with chemical weapons.

The Republican National Committee is suing the Jan. 6 committee over a subpoena to one of its vendors, Salesforce.

And a DC police office’s suicide after Jan. 6 attack was declared an line-of-duty death.

https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/meet-the-press/georgia-primary-poses-major-test-trump-s-drive-remake-gop-n1291477

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