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Trump has backed former Sen. David Perdue for Georgia governor

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Former President Trump continues to exert himself on the Republican Party, this time in Georgia. With Trump's encouragement, former Senator David Perdue will now challenge the sitting GOP Gov. Brian Kemp in the Republican primary. NPR's Domenico Montanaro is following this for us.

Hey, Domenico.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Hey, Ari.

SHAPIRO: Trump lost Georgia narrowly in 2020. What is he hoping for with this primary?

MONTANARO: Well, one word, Ari - Revenge. Trump has endorsed a whole slate of candidates in Georgia, from governor on down to secretary of state, and it's all about his losing Georgia in the presidential election. As far as Brian Kemp goes, Trump thinks Kemp should've done something to overturn the results, even though there were recounts, and he had no power to overturn the election. So Trump went, recruited Perdue to run, and now this figures to be an expensive and bruising primary that, frankly, could jeopardize this seat for Republicans.

SHAPIRO: What's Perdue saying about his reason for challenging the incumbent?

MONTANARO: He's pretty explicit that this is about Kemp defying Trump and that Kemp can't beat Democrat Stacey Abrams, who announced last week that she's running again for governor. Here's Perdue from his announcement video, talking about why he thinks Kemp can't win.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

DAVID PERDUE: Instead of protecting our elections, he caved to Abrams and cost us two Senate seats, the Senate majority and gave Joe Biden free rein. Think about how different it would be today if Kemp had fought Abrams first, instead of fighting Trump.

MONTANARO: That is quite the claim from someone who was never seen as a real big Trumper (ph) in the Senate, more of a business-minded conservative. But Abrams' entry certainly has upped the urgency of this race for Republicans. You'll remember she narrowly lost to Kemp in 2018, raised lots of questions about access to the polls for Black and brown voters. Many Democrats credit her work that she did after the election for helping President Biden win in 2020. There are some questions, too, about Perdue's entry because he did lose his bid for reelection last year to Democrat Jon Ossoff.

SHAPIRO: Trump has endorsed a lot of candidates. Is his endorsement of Perdue consistent with the other kinds of people he's backed?

MONTANARO: It is. You know, he's endorsed dozens of candidates in a very wide range of races. We're talking about from governors' races, like the Virginia governor's race that happened earlier this year, to the Senate to state legislatures - even the campaign for Staten Island borough president, Ari. And they all have one thing in common, loyalty to the brand - MAGA, Trumpism. And that especially means enabling Trump's lie of the election being stolen from him in 2020. And if you think about Perdue, like I mentioned, not someone who we would've thought to be a traditional Trump-style Republican.

SHAPIRO: What impact do his endorsements seem to be having so far?

MONTANARO: It's kind of spotty. He's had some success. Some candidates have rocketed to frontrunner status. Others haven't quite taken off - or things have gotten kind of messy. I mean, for example, look in Pennsylvania, which could be key to controlling the Senate. The candidate that Trump had backed initially dropped out after he lost custody of his children, stemming from domestic abuse allegations. But Trump doesn't mind chaos, obviously, as we've seen, and he's not going to be shy about challenging Republicans who don't line up with him. This is, you know, frankly, what Trump had in mind when he said there's no reason for him to start a third party - there's already the Republican Party. It's like he figures, why buy a new house? He's following through on his threat to renovate and gut the old one.

SHAPIRO: And how is Georgia shaping up in this gubernatorial race? When you look at Stacey Abrams declaring last week and now this primary in the Republican side, what does it look like?

MONTANARO: Georgia's part of the New South. You know, we're looking at the Sunbelt. Joe Biden having won last time around, and Stacey Abrams certainly is going to put this race on the map.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Domenico Montanaro, thanks a lot.

MONTANARO: You're welcome.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE DEAD TEXAN'S "GIRTH RIDES A (HORSE) +") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.