He’s got Trump’s endorsement, so why is David Perdue struggling as he primary challenges Georgia Gov. Kemp?

Former Georgia Sen. David Perdue at CPAC 2022

Former Sen. David Perdue speaks with Fox News Digital at CPAC 2022 about the Georgia Senate race.

Former Republican Sen. David Perdue made it official on Wednesday, trekking to Georgia’s state capitol building to formally file to qualify for this year’s ballot.

Perdue enjoys the backing of former President Donald Trump as he challenges conservative Gov. Brian Kemp in the state’s GOP primary. And Perdue is showing off that endorsement.

“David Perdue is an outstanding man. He’s tough. He’s smart. He has my complete and total endorsement,” Trump says to camera in Perdue campaign TV ads that have been running statewide for six weeks.

But the former corporate chief executive officer trails Kemp in fundraising and in the latest polling in their epic GOP gubernatorial primary battle in a one-time solidly red state that’s become a top general election battleground.

A Fox News poll of GOP primary voters in Georgia that was released on Tuesday indicates 50% support for Kemp, with Perdue at 39% and one in ten unsure or backing another candidate in the race. The Fox News poll, which was conducted March 2-6, follows other recent surveys that suggested Kemp holding an upper single digit lead over Perdue.

In this Nov. 4, 2018, file photo, then-Georgia Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp, left, walks with then-President Donald Trump as Trump arrives for a rally in Macon , Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
(AP )

Asked about the Fox News poll on Wednesday morning, Perdue told reporters “we’re right where we want to be right now. I love being the challenger. I want this governor to answer a lot of questions. I’m the guy that in 2014, even in 2020, a lot of these polls missed us.”

And he emphasized that his campaing is “doing what we need to do.” 

Four years ago, with the support of Trump, Kemp narrowly defeated Democrat Stacey Abrams to win the governorship. But Kemp earned Trump’s ire starting in late 2020, after he certified now President Biden’s narrow victory in Georgia in the presidential election, following two recounts of the vote. Trump, who had unsuccessfully urged the governor and other top Republican officials in the state to overturn the results, has repeatedly vowed to return to Georgia to campaign against Kemp. Trump for months urged Perdue to primary challenge the governor, and late last year he endorsed Perdue a day after the former senator launched his bid.

Donald Trump Jr, the former president’s eldest child, teamed up with Perdue on the campaign trail on Monday with stops in Cumming and Tifton. 

Fox News confirmed that Perdue will join Trump at the former president’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, on March 16 for a fundraiser.

And Perdue told Fox News Digital during a recent interview that the former president would also be coming to Georgia ahead of the May 24 primary.

Despite Trump’s repeated jabs at Kemp, most polling indicates he remains popular with GOP voters in Georgia. The Fox News survey indicated Trump with a 79% favorability rating among Peach State Republicans, with the governor at 68% and Perdue at 66%.

“There’s one thing that’s been pretty consistent and that’s Brian Kemp’s favorability and name ID remain remarkably strong throughout the attacks by Donald Trump,” a veteran Georgia based GOP consultant – who asked for anonymity to speak more freely – told Fox News. “Brian Kemp is really well liked by the conservative base despite what Donald Trump says.” 

Republican Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia formally launches his 2022 reelection campaign at a kick-off event in Perry, Georgia, on July 10, 2021
(Brian Kemp 2022 reelection campaign)

Another longtime Republican strategist in Georgia – who also asked to remain anonymous – said that “Kemp has done a pretty good job governing the state. The reality is he’s been a good, conservative, governor.”

The strategist also noted that “we’re in the middle of the legislative session. Brian Kemp’s in the news every day with something conservative and strong,” and pointed out that “anytime you’re a governor, you have a huge home-court advantage when you run for reelection. There’s a reason why sitting governors historically don’t get beat in primaries.”

The consultant argued that Perdue’s “trying to ride the coattails of Trump and I think those coattails are getting shorter by the day here in Georgia,” and predicted that “Perdue has an uphill climb to break 43%-44%.”

Perdue’s endorsement is one of five that Trump’s made in various races this year in Georgia. The strategist suggested that “Trump has spread himself thin” and that the multiple endorsements can be confusing to “the average Republican voter, even the one who loves Donald Trump.”

According to the Fox News poll, Perdue leads Kemp 52%-39% among the subgroup of GOP primary voters with a strongly favorable opinion of Trump. But Kemp holds a large 70%-15% lead over Perdue among the small percentage of GOP voters who view Trump unfavorably.

In Georgia’s GOP Senate primary, the Fox News poll indicates former professional and college football star running back Herschel Walker at 66% support, with his Republican rivals for the nomination all in the single digits. 

Walker, who won a Heisman Trophy and helped propel the University of Georgia to a national championship four decades ago, was encouraged by Trump for months last year to run in the race to challenge Democratic freshman Sen. Raphael Warnock. And Walker was endorsed by the former president soon after jumping into the race in the late summer.

Former President Donald Trump listens as Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker speaks during his Save America rally in Perry, Ga., on Saturday, Sept. 25, 2021. (AP Photo/Ben Gray)
(AP )

But political insiders don’t attribute Walker’s large lead in the Fox News poll and other recent surveys solely to Trump’s endorsement.

The GOP strategist told Fox News that “the Trump endorsement helps but Herschel Walker is a legend here in Georgia, and he’s very likable. While he might be naive politically, I think that’s helping him in this regard.”

And the consultant argued that Walker’s commanding position in the polls “is independent of Trump’s endorsement” and noted that “if you watch what Herschel says and puts out on social media, he doesn’t talk about Trump a whole lot.”

Fox News Dana Blanton and Victoria Balara contributed to this report

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