Georgia Governor Brian Kemp has already discarded running for president in 2024, but is preparing to be a crucial player in next year’s election by raising millions of dollars for a pair of political action committees that he will use to support Republican candidates at both the state and federal levels.

Kemp gathered donors this week for a three-day retreat to Sea Island, Georgia, to plan the 2024 campaign with a focus on the specific role of Georgia, a vital state for Republicans if they have any hope of winning the White House. According to a source familiar with the recall, the event raised $1.2 million for Kemp’s committees.

The withdrawal comes as former President Donald Trump leads the polls among the 2024 Republican presidential candidates, with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis second but trailing as he prepares to announce his campaign.

Kemp’s activities around 2024 raise his national profile and position him to be part of the mix for a gubernatorial alternative to president should DeSantis stumble. At the very least, it positions him for a potential Senate run in 2026, since he won’t be able to run for governor again due to state term limits.

Kemp’s private retreat featured a long list of Republican operatives and leaders giving presentations on a wide range of issues related to the upcoming election. Speakers included former House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio; Karl Rove, former senior adviser to President George W. Bush; and former Sen. Kelly Loeffler of Georgia.

During his remarks to the group, Kemp outlined what he thinks the eventual Republican nominee needs to focus on for the party to be successful in 2024.

“First, we have to tell the voters what we are for. Second, focus on the future. And third, we have to be able to win a general election. Because we can’t score points if we don’t have the ball,” Kemp said, according to the source familiar with the withdrawal.

Kemp never mentioned Trump by name, but he warned Republicans that it will be difficult to win back the White House if the party continues to re-litigate the 2020 election. He has also repeatedly said that electability should be a priority for primary voters. republican.

After the 2020 election, Trump was angry that Kemp did not do more to challenge the presidential results in Georgia, so much so that he recruited former Sen. David Perdue to challenge Kemp in the 2022 Republican gubernatorial primary. Kemp soundly defeated Perdue, and then Stacey Abrams, to win re-election.

The retreat was organized by Kemp’s Hardworking Americans Inc., a federal super PAC he launched shortly after winning re-election last fall, and the Georgia First Leadership Committee, his state leadership PAC.

Kevin McLaughlin, a Republican national strategist, is a member of the Hardworking Americans board and attended the retreat. He said that while Kemp did not mention Trump, other attendees did, and often when the former president’s name was mentioned, the topic went back to winning the general election.

“I think everyone was focusing on candidates who can win not only the primary but also the general election,” he said.

Some of the panels at the meeting, which ran from Sunday to Tuesday, were:

  • A fireside chat on Sunday night to kick off the retreat between Kemp and Boehner.
  • A panel moderated by Conservative radio host Erick Erickson, with Rove and Conservative pollster Brent Buchanan looking at trends emerging from the 2022 election and how they will affect 2024.
  • A discussion with Kemp’s data guru Mark Stephenson showing donors what the Kemp campaign did in 2022 to easily win what was expected to be a competitive rematch against Democrat Abrams.
  • A policy discussion focused on national security and the global economy with a specific emphasis on China led by Loeffler, who lost a special election to Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock. Loeffler was joined on the panel by former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State David Feith and Dave McCormack, who lost a Senate primary in Pennsylvania in 2022 but is believed to be a prized recruit to face Democratic Sen. Bob Casey in 2024.

McCormack’s attendance was remarkable. He spoke about what the source familiar with his retirement described as his «battle plan for America» ​​and was repeatedly encouraged by aides to run for the Senate.

McLaughlin said that, in his opinion, Kemp’s record would make him a leading candidate for president in 2024, but the governor’s focus is primarily to deliver Georgia to the Republicans.

“I think he certainly has every right to be in the conversation,” McLaughlin said. «But he wants to make sure that in Georgia there’s some balance that gets restored to where we think he should be.»

Although Kemp has apparently the opportunity passed to run for president next year, his role as a popular governor in a major swing state puts him at or near the top of any list of potential vice-presidential candidates, and he could challenge Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff in 2026 .