Pence touts Kemp as 'the most successful conservative governor' on campaign trail
Former Vice President Mike Pence joined Gov. Brian Kemp on the campaign trail north of Atlanta on Tuesday, urging people to support "the most successful conservative governor in the United States" in his rematch against Stacey Abrams.
Flanked by a campaign bus in front of a construction company in Gainesville, Pence said he was an early supporter of Kemp and knew the governor had done great things for the state.
"I'm here because Brian Kemp is not only my friend, but he's a man who is a friend to everyone who cherishes faith and family and freedom," Pence said. "And I'm here because Brian Kemp is arguably the most successful conservative governor in the United States of America. And finally, I'm here because Stacey Abrams must never be governor of the state of Georgia."
Kemp is leading in the polls and is favored to win outright, but is still hovering around the 50% threshold needed to avoid a Dec. 6 runoff. The first-term Republican says he's focusing on turning out voters until polls close.
"Well, no disrespect to your polls or anybody else's," Kemp said to reporters after a speech Tuesday. "I've told people we don't need to believe polls, we don't need to believe the media, don't believe politicians, just get out there and work. The ultimate poll is going to be this coming Tuesday."
His reelection campaign stump speech is centered around Georgia's economic prosperity and policies he's championed, including tax refunds, pay raises for teachers and law enforcement, and a record budget surplus.
"We've had the greatest economic times that we've seen in my lifetime in this state," Kemp said. "Lowest unemployment rate, most people working two record years in a row... That's what we're fighting for."
Pence's appearance with the governor comes as part of a larger proxy war over the future direction of the Republican Party and the 2024 presidential contest. Kemp is one of a small number of conservative politicians who pushed back on former President Donald Trump's false claims of election fraud, leading to a Trump-backed primary challenge from former Sen. David Perdue.
But during Kemp's first term in office, Georgia enacted some of the most conservative legislation in the country around guns, abortion and election laws, and the governor cruised to a dominating primary victory and has enjoyed strong support from the Republican base heading into the election.
After becoming a frequent fixture in campaign rallies across the Peach State as recently as spring, Trump has been a non-factor for both parties in a state he lost in 2020.
Another key piece of Kemp's time in office that has led to his popularity with some voters stems from his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Pence applauded Georgia for being the first state to ease restrictions and reopen the economy.
"As our nation passed through the worst pandemic in 100 years, Gov. Brian Kemp was the first governor in America to open up again," Pence said. "He took heat for it. But I can tell you, having been shoulder to shoulder with him in that fight, he never took his eyes off the interests of the people of Georgia."
Kemp has frequently pitched the 2022 election as a "battle for the soul of our state" in a rematch against Democratic former state House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, whom he narrowly defeated by about 55,000 votes in 2018. In the final days of this campaign, his message offers sharp contrasts of what he says life would be like in Georgia if she was in charge.
"We have been doing good in this state because we have been saying no to Stacey Abrams," Kemp said outside Cumming Cigar Company on Tuesday. "We said no to her when she didn't want us to reopen small parts of our economy that we had asked to help us stop the spread, flatten the curve, build PPE supplies and hospital bed capacity during a very tough time in our state and in our country."
Nearly two million Georgians have already cast ballots in the election so far, with three days of in-person early voting to go.