Georgia brought good news for Democrats on Tuesday and bad news for Republicans hoping to reclaim the Senate seat they lost to Democrat Raphael Warnock last month: Former GOP incumbent David Perdue has opted out of running in 2022.
Why exactly Perdue opted not to run isn’t exactly clear. An Atlanta Journal-Constitution report suggests that Perdue never really had an appetite for a 2022 re-run to begin with, but wanted to keep his options open. Never-Trumper Republican Sarah Longwell, founder of the Republican Accountability Project and Republican Voters Against Trump, thinks Perdue was afraid of a challenge from his right, tweeting, “He realizes he doesn’t stand a chance against Marjorie Taylor Greene in a primary.”
But whatever the reason, Perdue’s initial announcement that he might mount a comeback bid was the Republican Party’s best chance of avoiding a contentious primary that will almost surely back its winner into the furthest of right-wing corners. Before Perdue’s exit opened the field, the primary contest was mostly frozen. Perdue was about as good a blend of establishment pedigree paired with tepid Donald Trump support (at least last cycle) as the GOP could hope for. Now that he’s out, two of the main contenders to fill his shoes already engaged in a withering 2020 contest to win the backing of Republican voters: former incumbent Sen. Kelly Loeffler and fervent Trump ally Rep. Doug Collins.
Loeffler announced Monday the formation of Greater Georgia, a group that is supposedly intended to be the GOP answer to the Democrats’ highly successful Fair Fight Georgia. But naturally, a big part of the new GOP group’s agenda involves pushing for so-called conservative electoral policies—i.e. voter suppression efforts currently being pushed by the Republican legislature following the party’s historic losses in both the general election and the January runoffs.
Collins might also forgo a Senate bid in order to take on the state’s GOP governor, Brian Kemp, whom Trump blames for failing to fraudulently engineer a win on his behalf.
Several other potential GOP contenders are waiting in the wings in a race that will likely come down to who can prove the Trumpiest of them all. Perdue just might have spared Georgia Republicans that spectacle and, likewise, his exit invites the very same Trump-inspired fireworks that helped cost them the seat in the first place.