The Daily Caller has published a transcript of a recent interview with Donald Trump, in which the president confirms what his agriculture secretary has been loathe to do: Admit that former Georgia governor Sonny Perdue was the fellow who persuaded Trump to weigh in on the Republican primary for governor, in favor of Brian Kemp and against Casey Cagle.
You’ll need to pick your way through some inaccuracies that go to show how detached Trump was from the Georgia contest. Trump never mentions Kemp by name. From the Caller interview, emphasis ours:
The Republican governor of Georgia, he was down 10, and I endorsed him, and I think he won 70-30. He won by 40 points. I did that endorsement at the request and I liked him a lot. First of all, I have to really respect the candidate, I have to like the candidate, otherwise I’m just not going to get involved. But he’s currently running as you know, he won the race against the man that was favored. But I did that for Sonny Perdue. But when I did it he was down about 10 points. And he ended up winning by 70-30. He won by 40 points, so that means he picked up 50.
Kemp, who is currently only the GOP nominee for governor, had indeed started the primary runoff behind in the polls, but as the July 24 election neared, he had in fact pulled even – or even slightly ahead – of Cagle.
But Trump’s Twitter endorsement did indeed turn the contest into a rout, and Kemp won, 69 to 31 percent.
Perdue’s involvement in Trump’s endorsement, which caught even Kemp by surprise, has been long suspected. The agriculture secretary was in a Cabinet meeting with the president – as was former Perdue aide Nick Ayers, now chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence – hours before the president sent his Twitter message.
In addition, in stump speeches immediately afterwards, Kemp began to immediately mention Perdue in the same breath with Gov. Nathan Deal, who had backed Cagle in the runoff.
However, after first denying any involvement, Perdue himself had avoided reporters’ further questions on his role.