Trump drains GOP of cash in Georgia — then suffers embarrassing defeat

GOP blows through millions of dollars to ward off MAGA-friendly candidates

By Jon Skolnik

Staff Writer

Published May 25, 2022 6:34PM (EDT)

President Donald Trump attends a rally in support of Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) and Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) on December 05, 2020 in Valdosta, Georgia.  (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
President Donald Trump attends a rally in support of Sen. David Perdue (R-GA) and Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) on December 05, 2020 in Valdosta, Georgia. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Tuesday's primary in Georgia saw some of the most lopsided defeats for Republican candidates endorsed by Donald Trump, including impressive performances from incumbents like Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger who fended off well-funded challenges as well as months of abuse from Trump himself. 

Beyond Georgia, Republicans are blowing through millions of dollars to ensure that Trump-backed gubernatorial challengers don't oust establishment GOP incumbents, shrinking the war chest that the party has historically drawn from to fend off Democratic opponents.

The Republican Governors Association (RGA) has spent $5 million to bolster the campaign of Kemp, who quashed a primary challenge by the Trump-backed former Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga. The RGA's cash injection proved a "devastating blow" for Perdue's odds, according to The Washington Post. And it's not the only state that the group has targeted. 

The RGA has spent at least $9 million to help incumbents in Georgia, Alabama, Ohio, Idaho, and Oklahoma over the 2022 election cycle, The Daily Beast reports. In Alabama, the group swatted away a primary challenge to Gov. Kay Ivey's re-election campaign with a $2 million donation. Ivey won over 50% of the primary vote, immediately disqualifying all of her Republican challengers. 

RELATED: Trump's guys may lose in Georgia – but his Big Lie is going strong

A similar story played out in Ohio, where Gov. Mike DeWine, who came under Trump's wrath for backing common sense COVID-19 measures, faced opposition from three pro-Trump challengers. DeWine, who received $1 million from the RGA, ultimately trounced those contenders in the primary, winning 48.1% of the vote.

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy has also been a beneficiary of the RGA, collecting $3 million to stamp out a primary challenge by Bill Walker, an anti-Trump Republican who served as the govenror of Alaska from 2014 to 2018. 

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Other beneficiaries of the RGA include Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and Gov. Brad Little, who has collectively raked in $677,000. 

While all of this spending has helped ensure that Republicans maintain a sure footing at the state level, some Republicans argued that it hasn't come without cost. 

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is co-chairing the fundraising arm for the RGA, said that the need to ward off MAGA candidates draws from the resources that could be used to compete with Democrats in the general. 

RELATED: Election expert: Trump is about to get "embarrassed" in GOP primaries — and not just in Georgia

"This is just not the best use of our money. We would much rather use it just in races against Democrats," Christie told the Post. "But it was made necessary because Donald Trump decided on the vendetta tour this year and so we need to make sure we protect these folks who are the objects of his vengeance."

Doug Heye, a longtime GOP strategist, likewise told the Beast that Republicans would "rather avoid" getting roped into costly skirmishes with Trump-endorsed contenders. 

"It highlights why Republicans made a mistake to get in the business of Donald Trump, but that ship has sailed," Heye said. "That's the political reality of where they are."

By Jon Skolnik

Jon Skolnik was a former staff writer at Salon.

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Brian Kemp Brief David Perdue Donald Trump Elections 2022 Georgia Gop Civil War Rga