A spate of setbacks is raising questions about Donald Trump as the dominant force in Republican politics.
The latest of these was the defeat of his favoured candidate in Georgia – the former president has been privately fretting about who might challenge him.
Mr Trump is now said to be quizzing advisers and visitors at his Mar-a-Lago resort in South Florida about his budding rivals for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, including his former vice-president Mike Pence and Florida Republican governor Ron DeSantis.
Among his questions, according to several advisers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, are who will actually run against him? What do the polls show? And who are his potential foes meeting with?
He also had revived conversations about announcing a presidential exploratory committee to try to dissuade challengers, they say, even as some party officials and advisers continue to urge him to wait until after the midterm elections to announce that he is running.
Mr Trump’s deliberations follow prominent defeats this month for chosen candidates in Idaho, Nebraska, North Carolina and now Georgia, where former senator David Perdue was defeated on Tuesday by Mr Trump’s arch-nemesis, governor Brian Kemp, who refused his entreaties to overturn the election he lost in the state in 2020. The defeats were driven by rival Republican power centres amid a growing sense that Mr Trump may not hold the dominant sway he once had over the party.
Throughout Georgia, Republican voters said they simply dismissed Mr Trump’s sharp criticisms of Mr Kemp and overwhelmingly elected the incumbent governor, delivering a remarkable repudiation of the former president by giving Mr Kemp a victory of about 50 percentage points.
“I voted for him twice. Would I do it again? No,” said Vijah Bahl, a 65-year-old developer who attended Mr Kemp’s election night party on Tuesday at the College Football Hall of Fame.
“Trump’s divisiveness hurt Perdue here and his endorsement backfired. It wasn’t really his content but his delivery. And Trump can be a very vindictive person.”
Over the din of a lone country crooner on the stage, Jim Braden, a 62-year-old developer, stood near the front of the makeshift indoor football field and said it was an easy choice to pick Mr Kemp for governor.
“We’re not like the rest of the country that’s going to follow the lie,” he said of Mr Trump’s false claims to winning the 2020 election. In his victory speech, Mr Kemp did not mention Mr Trump and barely mentioned Mr Perdue. “Even in the middle of a tough primary, conservatives across our state didn’t listen to the noise. They didn’t get distracted,” he said.
“Georgia Republicans went to the ballot box and overwhelmingly endorsed four more years of our vision for this great state.”
That Mr Trump spent more than $2.5m (€2.3m) on behalf of Mr Perdue, held a rally in Georgia and relentlessly attacked Mr Kemp but was still defeated was the latest sign that his influence over the Republican Party, while considerable, has receded somewhat in recent months.
In another defeat for Mr Trump, Brad Raffensperger, the Georgia secretary of state who resisted Mr Trump’s calls to “find” votes in 2020, was far ahead of his opponent, Trump-backed Jody Hice.
The Republican Governors Association steered $5m to defeat Mr Perdue after backing victors against Mr Trump picks in Nebraska and Idaho.
The emerging field of 2024 rivals has grown increasingly bold in its willingness to campaign against his interests. And in the US Senate, all but 11 Senate Republicans joined with Democrats on a military aid bill for Ukraine, despite Mr Trump’s criticism of the measure as a misplaced priority given the domestic baby formula shortage. (© 2022, The Washington Post)
© Washington Post