(CNN) — Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has a message for his fellow Republicans looking to win back the White House: “We cannot get distracted.”
“We have to tell people, No. 1, what we’re for. No. 2, that we’re going to be focused on the future and what we’re going to do for the voters in our state or the American people. And then, No. 3, we have to do a simple thing: We have to win,” Kemp told CNN’s Jake Tapper Sunday on “State of the Union.”
The governor’s remarks came a day after he’d told donors at a Republican National Committee retreat in Nashville that the GOP needed to move on from the 2020 presidential election. In his speech, Kemp offered a thinly veiled dig at former President Donald Trump and his continued election grievances, without naming him, saying, “Not a single swing voter will vote for our nominee if they choose to talk about the 2020 election being stolen.”
Trump, currently seen as the front-runner for the 2024 Republican nomination, has repeatedly argued since leaving office that Republicans cannot succeed — either at the ballot box or legislatively — if they turn a blind eye to the past. But candidates who backed his false election claims did poorly in the midterm elections last fall in key swing states Trump will need to win back the White House in 2024.
Trump is also under a cloud of legal woes. In New York, a hush money payment to an adult-film star shortly before the 2016 election has resulted in his indictment by a Manhattan grand jury over his alleged role in the scheme. And in Atlanta, a select grand jury has investigated efforts by Trump and allies to overturn his election loss in Georgia in 2020.
“I can’t control what the judicial branch is doing or what a local prosecutor is doing in many ways, but what we can control … is what we’re focused on,” Kemp said Sunday.
“If we get distracted and talk about other things that the Democrats want to talk about, like these investigations — regardless of what you think about the politics of those — if we get distracted every day and let the media just talk about that, that only helps Joe Biden,” he added. “It does not give us a path for Republicans to win.”
Asked by Tapper if Trump was unelectable nationwide, Kemp demurred.
“That’s for the people to decide,” he said.
Tension between Trump and Kemp has been simmering for years. When Kemp refused to overturn Biden’s 2020 win in Georgia, Trump made the governor his No. 1 enemy, publicly railing against him throughout 2021 and recruiting former US Sen. David Perdue to challenge Kemp in a GOP primary. Through it all, Trump failed to draw Kemp into a fight, and the governor won his 2022 primary overwhelmingly before handily defeating Democratic opponent Stacey Abrams in the November general election.
Kemp said Sunday that Republicans will need to draw a distinction with what he referred to as “the disaster of the Biden administration” to win next year, pointing to border security, high inflation and energy policy.
“I think we’re going to have a lot of good candidates that, if they focus on those things, we have got a great chance of winning the White House in 2024,” the governor said.