WASHINGTON (AP) — Competing in a contested runoff campaign for Georgia’s governor, Brian Kemp didn’t see it coming: the single-most prized endorsement in Republican politics.
When President Donald Trump tweeted his support last week of Kemp over his Republican opponent, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, the Georgia secretary of state was holding a news conference announcing an endorsement from a former primary rival. Kemp had no warning that the president would deliver his “full and total endorsement.”
The endorsement ahead of Tuesday’s runoff was the latest example of how Trump has become more emboldened in offering his imprimatur on a number of Republican contests — despite being burned in a bitter Alabama Senate campaign last year.
Three Trump administration officials said Trump endorsed Kemp after conferring with Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, a former Georgia governor who officials said circumvented the internal process on endorsements to advocate on Kemp’s behalf. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. A representative for Perdue didn’t respond to a request for comment.
U.S. Rep. Martha Roby won Alabama’s Republican runoff on Tuesday, fighting through lingering fallout from her years-old criticism of then-candidate Donald Trump in a midterm contest that hinged on loyalty to the GOP president.
Trump has also been inclined to endorse Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach for governor ahead of the state’s Aug. 7 primary, two of the administration officials said. But aides have warned the president that it would alienate Republicans loyal to Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer, who succeeded Sam Brownback when Trump selected him for a diplomatic post.
Last spring, Trump was on the verge of tweeting out an endorsement of Kobach but his staff intervened, warning of the repercussions, the officials said. But they said Trump may still endorse Kobach anyway.
The political maneuvering puts the president at risk of being on the losing side of a Republican race, as he was in Alabama last year when he initially supported Sen. Luther Strange, who lost a Republican primary to Roy Moore. Trump then urged voters to support Moore in the general election, even after the former judge was stung by multiple allegations of sexual misconduct. Moore lost the race to Democrat Doug…