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Pence says a vote for Kemp will send ‘deafening message’ that GOP is ‘party of the future’

<i>Brynn Anderson/AP</i><br/>Former Vice President Mike Pence
AP
Brynn Anderson/AP
Former Vice President Mike Pence

By Michael Warren and Jeff Zeleny, CNN

On the eve of Georgia’s primary election, former Vice President Mike Pence had a forward-looking message of support for renominating Republican Gov. Brian Kemp.

“When you say yes to Governor Brian Kemp tomorrow, you will send a deafening message all across America that the Republican Party is the party of the future,” said Pence, speaking to a crowd of a few hundred in an airport hangar north of Atlanta on Monday.

Pence’s appearance was an implicit rebuke of former running mate Donald Trump, who has endorsed Kemp’s primary opponent, David Perdue. Pence did not make a direct mention of the former President nor respond to the relentless attacks Trump has leveled against Kemp. But his appearance at the rally the day before the election spoke volumes.

“When Brian Kemp called me and asked me to come out here and be with all of you, I said yes in a heartbeat,” Pence said.

The relationship between Pence and Trump has crumbled following the then-vice president’s refusal to stop the counting of Electoral College votes following the 2020 election. Pence, who in speeches frequently touts the accomplishments of the “Trump-Pence administration,” has also begun to forge a separate identity from the former President, positioning himself for a possible run for the White House in 2024.

Pence’s trip to Georgia is the latest of several appearances in the midterm cycle on behalf of Republican candidates. Marc Short, a top Pence aide, told CNN the former vice president will travel on Tuesday to appear with North Carolina Senate nominee Ted Budd, who won his Republican primary last week and had been endorsed by Trump.

In Kennesaw, neither Pence nor Kemp mentioned Perdue directly, choosing instead to aim their rhetorical fire at the presumptive Democratic nominee, Stacey Abrams. Kemp narrowly defeated Abrams in his first bid for governor in 2018.

“I’m here because Brian Kemp is the only candidate in tomorrow’s primary who has already defeated Stacey Abrams, whether she knows it or not,” Pence said. “And I’m here because Stacey Abrams can never be governor of the great state of Georgia.”

Multiple times during the rally, the audience broke out in a chant of “four more years,” with Pence leading one such chant near the end of his speech.

Before Pence came on stage, Kemp delivered brief remarks, touting his conservative accomplishments in his first term and going after Abrams for comments she recently made during a local Democratic Party event in which she referred to Georgia as the “worst state in the country to live.”

“I don’t know about y’all, but I’m glad we’re the No. 1 state in the country for business,” Kemp said. “And Marty and the girls and I know that we are the best state in the country to live, work and raise our families in.”

Kemp is leading in recent public polls, but Tuesday’s election will proceed to a runoff if no candidate wins more than 50% of the vote.

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