Gov. Brian Kemp has a chance of landing an outright victory against former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, according to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll that shows the Republican incumbent with a hefty advantage over his Donald Trump-backed challenger
Kemp led Perdue 53% to 27% in the poll of likely voters in the Republican primary, which is now less than a month away. That would put the governor above the majority-vote threshold needed to avoid a June runoff. Other challengers were in the single digits; an additional 15% were undecided, according to AJC.
Charlie Defrancesco, a health care executive in Mineral Bluff, said he’s no fan of either candidate, but he’s more concerned about Stacey Abrams, the presumptive Democratic nominee. Kemp is the only candidate who has ever defeated her, and Defrancesco believes he can do it again.
“It’s the lesser of two evils, but Stacey Abrams is the worst,” he said. “I would vote for Kemp because I know how he’ll behave, where with Perdue I’m not so sure.”
The poll was conducted April 10-22 by the University of Georgia’s School of Public and International Affairs and involved 886 likely Republican primary voters. The margin of error is 3.3 percentage points.
The governor dominated Perdue in almost every category of voters polled by the AJC. Perdue fared best with lower-income voters, but he still trailed Kemp significantly. The governor’s campaign is racing to slam the door shut on Perdue in the May 24 primary, wary of an unpredictable runoff.
Perdue only outpolled Kemp among likely GOP voters who said a Trump endorsement would make them more likely to vote for a candidate, leading him 55% to 30% among that group. But a majority of respondents said Trump’s blessing made no difference or made them less likely to back a contender.
Adding to Perdue’s challenge, 71% of respondents gave Kemp a positive review, compared with 21% who viewed him unfavorably. By contrast, 57% of likely GOP voters had a favorable view of Perdue and nearly one-third had a negative image of him.
The poll’s results come at a crucial stage in the GOP race for governor. With the early-voting period beginning next week, Perdue is running out of time to cut into Kemp’s lead. And the governor plans a spate of bill signings — including a visit to Perdue’s hometown Tuesday — to press his advantage.
Perdue, meanwhile, has veered even more sharply to the party’s right flank to rally Trump supporters in hopes of forcing a runoff. Once known as a business-friendly conservative, Perdue’s campaign now centers on lies about a “rigged” election that he promoted to open Sunday’s debate and attempts to paint Kemp as a moderate.
“It’s going to be real close,” said Ben Williams, the fire chief of the west Georgia town of Manchester. “I’m pro-Kemp. I’m not anti-Perdue, but I think the governor has been on top of things during the pandemic for me and for my firefighters.”