Republicans won Trump-losing states in 2020. Weak or withheld endorsements

Atlanta — Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp will support the GOP presidential ticket in November. This does not mean he will cheer for or endorse former President Donald Trump. “I’m going to support the nominee,” Kemp told reporters this week after Trump won his state’s primary and the GOP nomination.

The former president was endorsed by Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin last week, a former Republican presidential candidate. But only after Trump won the Virginia primary on Super Tuesday. Virginia Lt. Gov. Winsome Earle-Sears, a top Black Republican, won't endorse him. “Everybody has to make their own decision,” she told reporters following Trump's win. She then quoted Hosea 8:4, “They have set up kings, but not by me.”

Trump cruised to his third Republican nomination, but his party dominance is rocky. Some high-profile members of his party, especially in swing states with Trump-skeptical voters, are trying to stay away to protect their careers.

Kemp and Youngkin, who could run for president in four years, must court Trump supporters without alienating Trump opponents. Trump faces a harder road to forging alliances in battleground areas he lost to Biden in 2020 and Kemp and Youngkin won since, enacting right-wing policies.

“He’s the King Kong of Republican politics,” Whit Ayres, who worked for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s 2016 presidential campaign, said in an interview before Trump's nomination. Ayres said that's different from unifying the party and building the coalition in a general election.

How the former president hopes to foster party unity or seek more endorsements before November was not answered by a Trump campaign spokesperson.

Republicans who supported former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley before she withdrew out after Super Tuesday will oppose Trump in a rematch with President Joe Biden. Haley outperformed her statewide majorities in suburban and college-educated areas, illustrating Trump's difficulties with those populations.

Haley won 35% of Virginia's primary. Though early voting was accessible before she dropped out, approximately 78,000 Georgians—13% of the vote—voted for her in Tuesday's primary. After suspending her campaign, Haley advised Trump to “bringing people into your cause, not turning them away.”

A year after Biden won Virginia by double digits, Youngkin preserved Trump's edge in rural and small towns but switched enough Biden voters in urban and suburban areas in 2021. Trump lost the Atlanta suburbs, helping Biden win Georgia by less than 12,000 votes out of 5 million. Kemp won his reelection by 7.5 points two years later, outperforming Trump across the state.

Kemp appears to have decided how to handle his party's divisions: attack Biden, focus on Georgia, and discuss the future. Kemp said this week, “It doesn’t really matter who our nominee is or would have been — my goal is to make sure we’re keeping our legislative majorities,” affirming his electoral focus on his state.

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