Republicans are increasingly looking to Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) to play a leading role in the party’s bid to take back the White House in 2024 and beyond following his decisive victory in last year’s midterm election.
Coming off a year that saw him easily shut down a primary challenge backed by former President Trump before routing Democrat Stacey Abrams in the general election, Kemp is having a political moment. Republicans downplay his interest in a presidential bid, but point to him as a potential running mate for the eventual nominee or, at the very least, a highly sought-after surrogate in a newly minted battleground state.
Multiple Kemp allies also raised the possibility of a Senate bid in 2026, when Sen. Jon Ossoff (D-Ga.) will be up for reelection.
“After his accomplishment in the last election cycle, I think he has earned at a minimum elder statesman status,” said John Watson, a former Georgia GOP chairman and a close ally of Kemp. “The well-known battles with the former president, obviously the general race that was his second go-around with Stacey Abrams. I mean, the guy has packed a lifetime of politics into four years.”
“I think at a minimum, Republicans across the country ought to be picking up the phone and be talking to him.”
For the growing number of Republicans questioning Trump’s continued influence in the GOP after three lackluster election cycles in a row, Kemp’s success offers something of a blueprint for governing in a post-Trump party.
“If you are a candidate for president, there is no single endorsement in Georgia that is of more importance than Brian Kemp,” Watson said. “And because of that, I think that he’s going to have a pretty high degree of interest from people seeking his counsel.”
He first won the governor’s mansion in 2018 by campaigning as a staunch conservative Trump ally, before landing on the former president’s target list when he pushed back against efforts to overturn President Biden’s 2020 victory in Georgia. Trump coaxed former Sen. David Perdue (R) into an ill-fated primary bid against Kemp, who ultimately won renomination by more than 50 points.
He went on to defeat Abrams, a former state House minority leader and a national Democratic star, in a closely watched rematch in November, giving Georgia Republicans something to celebrate in a year that saw the GOP only barely recapture control of the House and blow an opportunity to oust Sen. Raphael Warnock (D) and win back the Senate majority.
On top of that, Kemp boasts a healthy approval rating. An Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll released last month showed Kemp with a 62-percent approval rating — the highest it’s been in the poll since he took office in 2019.
“I’m not sure there’s anyone who’s gotten more thrown at him in the last several years and come out of it stronger,” said one national Republican strategist. “That appeal is a good rubric for those seeking office.”
Now, as Republicans begin scoping out their next presidential nominee, many are looking to Kemp as something of a kingmaker in Georgia, believing that he may be the key to countering Trump and winning the state back for the GOP in 2024.
“I think it is likely, should he not run, that folks ask him for his advice,” one Kemp adviser told The Hill. “I think he could be a key voice to weigh in at some point on that primary.”
So far, only Trump has announced a bid for the party’s 2024 nod, but more candidates are expected to jump in soon. Former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley is said to be planning a campaign launch later this month, and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) could enter the race later this year. Early polling suggests that DeSantis may pose the biggest threat to Trump’s hopes of reclaiming the Republican nomination.
Multiple Republicans suggested that Kemp could form something of an alliance with someone like DeSantis. Both are conservative southern governors who have found themselves at odds with Trump at one time or another.
“I think he’s going to do whatever he can to help someone like DeSantis,” said Jay Williams, a Georgia-based Republican strategist. “In a way, they’re natural allies, just from the fact that Trump dislikes both of them. They have a lot of common ground. And I do think they probably have a lot of mutual interest in seeing Trump defeated in a primary.”
But there’s still a catch: If Trump, who is leading in most 2024 polling, were to win the GOP’s nomination, that could put Kemp in an awkward place. The Kemp adviser noted that while they believe that “Trump is in a much weaker position than what the polls suggest,” Kemp would stand behind whoever emerges from the primary.
“The governor said that he would support whoever the nominee is, and that includes Trump,” the Kemp adviser said. “From a policy perspective, you would believe a second term of Trump would be preferable to a second term of Joe Biden.”
Kemp himself has been the subject of occasional 2024 speculation, though several Republicans said it is more likely that he holds out to challenge Ossoff for his Senate seat in 2026. Kemp is serving out his second term in the governor’s mansion, and term limits will bar him from seeking reelection again.
“He’s probably going to play things close to the vest, but I’m pretty confident he wants that Senate seat,” said one Georgia Republican strategist and Kemp ally. “It’s probably going to be his nomination in four years, if he wants it.”
Still, if Kemp is offered the chance to be the eventual 2024 Republican nominee’s running mate, “I definitely think he would jump at that,” the strategist added.
“I can see him being on the short list for VP,” the strategist said. “I can’t imagine why he wouldn’t be. He just won reelection against a very popular, very famous Democrat celebrity.”
Regardless, there are already signs that Kemp is looking to play a larger role on the national stage. He filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission in November forming his own super PAC — Hardworking Americans Inc. — that could be used as a vehicle to boost his national profile or lay the groundwork for a future bid for federal office.
“The governor has not closed the door on anything in the future,” the Kemp adviser said. “He has previously said ‘I haven’t ruled anything in or out.’ That’s kind of where our whole operation is.”