The Georgia Republican Unscathed by Walker’s Defeat

“His success now really is a result of all these touches over the years — that ‘How’s your mama? How’s your daddy?’ kind of thing,” State Senator Jen Jordan, a Democrat and vocal Kemp critic, said. Such a face-to-face style may work locally and statewide, Ms. Jordan said, but may not translate beyond that. “Is that something you can do at the national level, like running for president?” she added.

In a recent interview, Mr. Kemp touted his political style, saying it was exactly that kind of outreach and willingness to campaign, even among those who do not support him, that helped him win re-election. He offered his own analysis of the midterm contests, saying that candidates who offered proposals for the future were more successful than those who focused on Mr. Trump’s obsession with the 2020 presidential campaign.

“People that were looking in the rearview mirror and the ’20 cycle did not have a good night,” Mr. Kemp said. “People that were looking forward and giving people a reason to vote for them, we had a good night.”

Republicans “want to support somebody that can win,” he said.

In Georgia’s Senate race, Mr. Walker was a scandal-plagued and gaffe-prone candidate who had the blessing of Mr. Trump, who once vowed to pry Mr. Kemp from office because the governor had declined to help overturn Mr. Trump’s 2020 defeat in the state.

But Mr. Walker, arguably the most revered football star in Georgia history, had also ignited Georgia’s Trumpist grass roots, a constituency that overlaps with Mr. Kemp’s. In the end, Mr. Kemp found a way to help Mr. Walker just enough to show he was a team player, but not so much for anyone to blame him for Mr. Walker’s loss.

Mr. Kemp turned over elements of his campaign machine, including more than 200 paid staffers, to the Senate Leadership Fund, a political action committee aligned with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell that put them to work for Mr. Walker. During the runoff, Mr. Kemp cut one TV ad for the Senate Leadership Fund and appeared at one pro-Walker rally and one fund-raiser.

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