Former President Donald Trump is on a revenge mission in Georgia.

After top Republicans refused to rig the state’s 2020 vote in his favor, he has already posed a major challenge to Governor Brian Kemp and backed another against Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. Wounded by two special election losses that cost Senate GOP control, he is also trying to persuade Herschel Walker – a Georgia soccer legend – to run for the seat, which will be available again in 2022.

Trump’s anger is expressed in the email statements he is issuing to circumvent the social media ban. At least two dozen have mentioned Georgia since March, which is about 12 percent of the messages that Trump’s Save America PAC has sent during that time. No other federal state was highlighted.

As recently as Friday, Trump suggested that “the people of Georgia should sue the state and its elected officials for running a CORRUPT AND rigged 2020 presidential election” – a response to news that the Justice Department is suing the state for restricting the electoral law, that Kemp signed after Trump’s loss and that Trump complained doesn’t go far enough.

And at a Saturday night rally in Wellington, Ohio – Trump’s first rally since leaving the White House – he took a moment to complain about Kemp and Georgia.

The Democrats turned Georgia, once reliably conservative, into a competitive state. President Joe Biden’s narrow win there, Senate victories in January, and Stacey Abrams’ close race with Kemp in 2018 all add to his battlefield status.

At the same time, some prominent Georgian Republicans are wholeheartedly on the side of the former president. The state’s congressional delegation includes some of its most loyal defenders. MP Marjorie Taylor Greene, who spoke at the Trump rally on Saturday, is known to support dangerous and racist conspiracy theories. Reps Andrew Clyde and Jody Hice are among those who have offered a false revisionist story of the January 6 uprising led by Trump supporters in the Capitol. When Hice made his main offer against Raffensperger in March, the former president was quick to back him.

Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, a Republican critical of Trump, cites the party’s propensity for personality-driven politics and complaints about politics and empathy as a factor in his decision not to run for a second term in 2022.

“Georgia is a small microcosm of what is happening to Republicans across the country,” Duncan told NBC News. “Unfortunately we were on the front page of the newspaper for 10 weeks. The cross wind and the chaos will certainly show up all over the country. “

In vain, Trump repeatedly put pressure on Kemp and Raffensperger to help overturn the 2020 results in the state, and at some point asked the Secretary of State to “find” enough votes for him. Repeating Trump’s lie that his election was stolen has since become a litmus test for GOP candidates seeking support from his right-wing supporters.

In 2018, with the support of the then president, Kemp catapulted an establishment-friendly Republican. Even now, amid Trump’s express threat to campaign against his re-election, Kemp has been careful not to upset him further and to escalate the situation. However, exactly how far Trump will go to get revenge remains to be seen. He is expected to hold a rally in Georgia soon.

“Depending on how much he wants to get involved – and it seems very involved – Trump could be a determining voice in more than one race in Georgia,” said a GOP agent close to Trump’s political operation.

Vernon Jones, a former lawmaker and former Democrat whose former party membership made him a convenient Trump replacement in 2020, has tabled a major bid against the governor. He says Trump would still be president without Kemp. His campaign manager, CJ Pearson, said Trump’s displeasure with Kemp was the “catalyst” for his candidacy.

But Trump didn’t support Jones. And Corey Lewandowski, a Trump adviser who heads one of the former president’s super PACs, hinted at a potentially strong new contender last week.

“I spoke to what I think was a phenomenal candidate,” said Lewandowski on Tuesday on the syndicated radio broadcast by conservative commentator John Fredericks.

Lewandowski would not identify the mysterious candidate by name, but called him a “well-known commodity” that was chosen “in an area where traditionally Republicans are not elected”.

Kemp went into 2021 with $ 6.3 million for a re-election campaign he officially launched last month. Allies say he focused on activating a large team of grassroots supporters across the state. When people at GOP events urge him for his refusal to undo Trump’s loss, Kemp responds by “telling the truth,” reminding them that he obeys the law and emphasizing his conservative achievements, said a Republican who worked for the team is close to the governor and asked for anonymity to discuss a politically sensitive issue.

Pearson questioned Kemp’s viability without Trump.

“We saw that Brian Kemp can run well with the president’s support,” Pearson said, referring to Trump’s 2018 support. “What we haven’t seen is running without it.”

Raffensperger started the year with around $ 87,000 in his campaign account, and Republicans, aware of his electoral defeat and Trump’s enthusiastic support for Hice, see him as more vulnerable than Kemp. A Raffensperger spokesman declined to comment. Hice’s campaign didn’t respond to inquiries about the area code.

As for the Senate race, several Republicans have expressed an interest in challenging Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock, including former Senator Kelly Loeffler, who lost to him in the January special. Gary Black, the state’s agricultural commissioner-elect, is the only announced candidate with national notoriety.

Walker – a University of Georgia Heisman winner who played for Trump’s old United States Football League franchise and later in the NFL – raised expectations in a recent tweet that he would run for the seat. The agent close to Trump, who asked for anonymity to speak openly, predicted Walker would clear the GOP field and force the former president and his family to invest even more in Georgia. A Walker campaign would also give the party a well-known black candidate competing with Warnock and possibly Abrams on the 2022 ticket.

Given her near-missed 2018 and persistent national profile as a voting rights activist, Abrams would again be a formidable Democratic opponent if, as many expect, she runs for governor. In a state where Biden and Trump separated fewer than 12,000 votes, their likely strength is a factor that GOP lead candidates and voters could weigh.

“At the end of the day are you enough Trump in the primary? And is that a burden or a problem in the general election? ”Said Nick Everhart, a Republican media advisor who worked with Kemp’s 2018 campaign.

There were early signs that the first question is more important. Activists at the GOP Congress in Georgia this month booed Kemp and voted to reprimand Raffensperger. But there remains a part of the party that worries about the second.

Duncan, the outgoing lieutenant governor, is writing a book due out in September outlining his plans for a “GOP 2.0” to rebuild a post-Trump party. He described the primaries against Kemp and Raffensperger as “selfish” and “based on trying to pacify a former president who sits at his resort down in Mar-a-Lago”.

John Watson, a Kemp ally and former state party leader, wonders how Trump’s resentment match will end.

“For domestic and Georgia Republicans, if the agenda is forward, I believe we will win,” said Watson. “If we try to drive through the rearview mirror, we’ll crash.”