ATLANTA — The surprise public rebuke by President Trump of Gov. Brian Kemp has been the talk of the political world over the last day or so.
Trump announced Wednesday evening he disagreed with Kemp’s decision to reopen many businesses Friday - broadening a rift between political allies.
Kemp may not owe his 2018 win of the governor’s race to President Trump – but there’s no doubt Trump’s public support during that year’s Republican primary helped drive Kemp to a landslide runoff win against Casey Cagle.
Trump campaigned with Kemp on the eve of the November 2018 election, which Kemp won by a whisker over Democrat Stacey Abrams.
"I really believe that had it not been for Donald Trump, we may not have a Gov. Kemp," said Debbie Dooley, an early Trump backer in 2016 when the New York billionaire seemed a long shot to win the presidency.
When Kemp took steps this week to reopen shuttered businesses – he seemed to follow the lead of the president.
Until the president changed course Wednesday.
"I told the governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp, that I disagree," Trump said.
"The governor did not take away the stay-at-home order, yet he selectively decided certain businesses are going to open up," US Rep. Doug Collins (R-Georgia) told Fox News Thursday. "My concern was not having the local input into that."
Others sided with the governor.
"Governor Kemp is obviously not going to back down now. He is going to dig his heels in," said Brian Robinson, a Republican strategist who served as an aide to former Gov. Nathan Deal.
Following Trump's revelation Wednesday, Kemp tweeted about Trump: "I appreciate his bold leadership and insight during these difficult times and the framework provided by the White House to safely move states forward."
The Republican governor had already grown somewhat accustomed to drawing the ire of his nominal ally in the White House.
Late last year, Kemp announced the appointment of Republican political donor Kelly Loeffler to fill a vacant US Senate seat. In so doing, he declined to appoint Rep. Collins, Trump’s high-profile surrogate
Kemp backed Loeffler despite the president’s displeasure.
Dooley expects "that simmering tension" to remain indefinitely between Kemp and Trump. Like Trump, Dooley supported Collins for the Senate vacancy.
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