- Mike Pence lavished praise on Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on the night before the GOP primary.
- Pence never mentioned Donald Trump or Kemp's Trump-backed challenger, David Perdue.
- Pence said reelecting Kemp would affirm that Republicans are "the party of the future."
KENNESAW, Georgia — Former Vice President Mike Pence told Georgians that they have to support incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp in Tuesday's GOP primary because doing otherwise would risk going backwards.
"When you say yes to Gov. Brian Kemp tomorrow, you will send a deafening message all across America that the Republican Party is the party of the future," Pence told the approximately 200 hundred people who gathered to hear his and Kemp's closing pitch for supporting incumbency, rather than putting 2020 election denier David Perdue through to the general election in November.
Or, rather, that's what the crowd was somehow expected to glean from the mutually congratulatory speeches — since neither man said Perdue's name all night.
Conservative commentator Brian Pritchard, 58, of Blue Ridge, Georgia, said the omission was very striking.
"Pence set the tone for post-Trump," Pritchard told Insider, adding that both men seemed to be looking past old threats to what's on the horizon. "They're clearly running against Stacey Abrams already."
Kemp attacked Abrams, whom he had to beat in 2018 to become governor and will likely face again this fall if he can avoid going to a runoff in Tuesday's GOP primary, at will. One of his go-to applause lines this past week is that he's running to ensure "that Stacey Abrams is not going to be your governor, or your next president."
Pence, too, railed against Abrams, the "radical left," "woke corporations," "on-demand" abortions and other themes conservatives use to spook one another.
But not a word about Perdue, whom recent polls have down by 30 points.
Kemp did slip in a mention of the Trump administration while discussing relief efforts during the early days of the pandemic, but otherwise did not bring up the vengeance-seeking former president who considers Kemp disloyal for certifying Joe Biden victory in 2020.
Pence seemed to be veering into a direct confrontation with his former boss when he mentioned that "elections are about the future," then furrowed his brow, and said "there are those who want to make this election about the past." But then he took a hard left, dumping on Abrams, Biden, and the "failed socialist policies of the last century" instead.
Pence did, however, try to hammer home that keeping Kemp in the governor's mansion would speak volumes about what Georgia Republicans stand for today.
"We have the opportunity to renew leadership this fall in Georgia that will continue to lead and inspire the nation," Pence said.
Cobb County resident Laura Patterson, 58, said she was glad to see Pence by Kemp's side. "I want this to look good for him tonight. And that he has a good day tomorrow," she told Insider of her hope for the next 24 hours.
Pritchard predicted that if Kemp has a particularly good day, he could tarnish Trump's cherished endorsement record and possibly loosen his grip on Georgia politics for good.
"If Kemp wins outright tomorrow night, he finishes Trump off here in Georgia," Pritchard said, estimating that Trump's statewide standing after that "is very, very weak."