February 24, 2021
Atlanta Big news in Atlanta was the seeming flipflop by former Senator David Perdue on his commitment to run in two years to reclaim the seat he recently lost by challenging newly elected Senator Raphael Warnock in that race. One week, he is announcing that he has set up an election committee and will be raising money for that contest. The next week, he is folding his tent, claiming that any old Republican mangy dog could beat the Democrat Warnock, and making the standard, well-worn excuse that he wants to spend time with his family.
There must be more to this story, and it turns out that there is, and, not surprisingly, it seems to revolve around planet Trump. Thanks to Maggie Haberman, who has been the Trump whisperer for the last five years, and other reporters at the New York Times, we almost hear the arm twisting and teeth grinding, as…
…the announcement came just days after Mr. Perdue made what is becoming a ritualistic trip for Republicans — to former President Donald J. Trump’s private club in Florida, for dinner and a lengthy round of golf last Friday. That raised questions among some Republicans about what Mr. Trump had said to him during their time together. The meeting did not go well, people briefed on it said. Mr. Trump was focused on retribution, particularly against Senator Mitch McConnell, the minority leader, and Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, a Republican whom Mr. Trump views as having betrayed him. Two Republicans, one in Atlanta and another in Washington, separately said that Mr. Trump spent much of his conversation with Mr. Perdue making clear his determination to unseat Georgia’s governor next year. Trying to navigate a feud between the former president and his state’s sitting governor for the next two years was deeply unappealing to Mr. Perdue, according to a Georgia Republican who knows the former senator.
Family — yeah, right, Mr. Perdue.
More importantly than events in Georgia, this seems to be a snapshot of the seismic waves we are likely hear echo in national and local politics within the right and the Republican party, as potential candidates approach the Mar-a-Largo throne and pay tribute to former president Trump and seek his support in future contests. Senator and former presidential candidate Mitt Romney says now that Trump under the current rules could easily win the 2024 nomination. For Republicans, it’s still all about Trump, all the time. Worse for them, and perhaps for all of us, is that it is also all about looking backward, and never forward, as Trump focuses on settling scores and seeking vengeance for his loss.
None of that is a surprise of course. Trump spent four years in the White House still fighting over the 2016 election, so now he’s set to spend the next four years fighting over the 2020 election. What might be a surprise – and a caution to many Republicans – is that Perdue declined to weigh in on these terms. Certainly, it is not because of any sudden surge of principles, since he demonstrated in the recent campaign that he had few. No, it likely has more to do with the fact that if you carry the weight for Trump and wage the election on his terms with his help, you lose. Trump’s role was critical in the victory for Warnock and Jon Ossoff’s doubleheader victory as Democrats in Georgia. Perdue clearly wasn’t ready for a rerun that would produce the same failure.
Unfortunately, I would fear that there are many ambitious folks in the wings who are blinded by the light and more than willing to pay tribute to Trump and willing to run their races tailored to his support. While Trump tries to reclaim the past, we will still be living in a frightening future.