Heavyweight primary fight increases degree of difficulty for Georgia Republicans

WASHINGTON — Donald Trump contributed to Republicans losing two Senate runoffs in Georgia in 2020 — after he picked fights with GOP elected officials, including Gov. Brian Kemp, who confirmed Trump’s defeat in the state.

Is the former president going to hurt Georgia Republicans again in 2022?

That’s the question now that former Sen. David Perdue — who lost one of those runoffs — is expected to officially announce his bid for governor and direct GOP primary challenge against Kemp.

All just days after Democrat Stacey Abrams entered the gubernatorial contest.

Back in September, Trump was already trying to lure Perdue into the race. “A friend of mine and a great senator, a man who — I don’t know, are you going to run for governor, David Perdue? Are you going to run for governor?” Trump asked at a Georgia rally, where he blasted Kemp, per the Washington Post.

“Where is David Perdue? Stand up, David. David Perdue, are you running for governor, David? Did I hear he’s running for governor? Thank you, David. He’s a great guy and he loves this state, and he’s done a fantastic job.”

And when Abrams jumped into the race last week, Trump released a statement that was more biting of Kemp than the Democratic candidate.

“Stacey ‘The Hoax’ Abrams has just announced that she’s running for Governor of Georgia. I beat her single-handedly, without much of a candidate, in 2018. I’ll beat her again, but it will be hard to do with Brian Kemp, because the MAGA base will just not vote for him after what he did with respect to Election Integrity and two horribly run elections.”

Ironically, it was Trump’s endorsement of Kemp in 2018 that propelled the Republican over rival Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle in the state’s GOP primary.

And Trump is now trying to unseat Kemp — all over the former president’s 11,779-vote loss in the state.

A Kemp-vs.-Abrams rematch was always going to be a tough race for the GOP, even in this challenging political environment for Democrats.

Now you can add a primary fight.

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Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

35: The number of years that Dole served in Congress.

17: The number of states where the omicron variant has been found, so far.

2.7 times: How much higher coronavirus death rates are in counties that backed Trump in 2020 with at least 60 percent of the vote when compared to counties that backed Biden, per an NPR analysis.

More than 500: The number of people Donald Trump came into contact with in the time between testing positive for the coronavirus and his ultimate hospitalization, according to a Washington Post analysis.

49,101,039: The number of confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 244,845 more since Friday morning.)

791,137: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far, per the most recent data from NBC News. (That’s 2,359 since Friday morning.)

470,297,846: The number of total vaccine doses administered in the U.S., per the CDC. (That’s 5,852,266 since Friday morning.)

46,299,869: The number of booster vaccine doses administered in the U.S., per the CDC. (That’s 3,326,647 since Friday morning.)

59.9 percent: The share of all Americans who are fully vaccinated, per the CDC.

71.5 percent: The share of all Americans 18-years and older who are fully vaccinated, per the CDC.

Biden’s diplomatic boycott of upcoming Olympic Games

“The Biden administration is expected to announce a diplomatic boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing this week, a senior administration official said late Sunday,” NBC’s Peter Alexander reports.

“A diplomatic boycott would mean that no U.S. government officials would attend the games but that U.S. athletes would still be allowed to compete.”

CNN first reported the news of the administration’s expected announcement.

Meanwhile, Biden gives a speech at 2:00 p.m. ET touting that the Democrats’ “Build Back Better” bill lowers prescription drug costs for Americans.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

The Washington Post chronicles the seven days between President Trump’s initial positive coronavirus test revealed last week in excerpts of Mark Meadows’ book (Trump tested negative on a rapid test hours later), and when he was ultimately hospitalized with the virus.

Politico reports Trump will endorse former North Carolina Rep. Mark Walker if he drops out of his bid for Senate and runs for the House.

The ousted, democratically elected leader of Myanmar has been sentenced to four years in prison.