Brian Kemp FILE 12132018
CNN  — 

On Tuesday afternoon, President Donald Trump celebrated a poll – that may or may not be exaggerated – showing Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp’s approval ratings dropping.

“Don’t believe it, must be more!” tweeted Trump.

That attack comes hard on Trump urging Rep. Doug Collins, who lost in a Senate primary last month, to run a primary challenge against Kemp in two years’ time. And Trump referring to Kemp as “hapless” on Twitter.

What has Kemp done to so anger Trump? He’s refused to conduct an illegal overthrow of the narrow victory in his state for President-elect Joe Biden on November 3, a victory, it’s worth noting, that has now been affirmed on no less than three occasions.

In other words: Kemp did his job. And refused to break the law. For that, he has become target No. 1 for Trump – as the President continues to lash out in anger and frustration about losing the 2020 election to Biden.

That Trump has turned on Kemp so viciously should function as a warning to every other Republican elected official – and there are hundreds of them – who either continue to publicly support Trump’s ridiculous attempt bid to overturn the election or sit silently by as it unfolds: Loyalty is a one-way street for Trump. And you can never, ever engage in enough sycophancy to ensure that you are spared his rage.

Kemp, after all, was one of Trump’s favorite governors even as recently as a few months ago.

Trump claimed credit – and somewhat rightly so – for Kemp’s come-from-behind victory over then-Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle in the 2018 runoff for governor.

“Brian Kemp is running for Governor of the great state of Georgia,” Trump tweeted days before the late July runoff. “The Primary is on Tuesday. Brian is tough on crime, strong on the border and illegal immigration. He loves our Military and our Vets and protects our Second Amendment. I give him my full and total endorsement.”

Kemp specifically cited Trump’s tweets at his victory speech. “We cannot forget that tweet that we heard around Georgia,” he said. “They poured gasoline on the fire and fueled the Kemp surge to victory.” The day after his runoff victory, Kemp pledged to “unapologetically stand with President Trump to secure our border, deport criminal aliens, crush gangs and ensure a bright and promising future for our families.”

And Trump was right there with Kemp in the general election as well. Just two days before the 2018 general election, Trump campaigned alongside Kemp in Macon. “I know Brian. This guy doesn’t stop,” Trump told the crowd. “This is what you want. He’s an incredible manager. He’s been successful all the way up the line. He’ll bring it to heights you wouldn’t believe.”

Kemp won that race narrowly over Stacey Abrams – and Trump was right there to tout the victory. “Congratulations to Brian Kemp on becoming the new Governor of Georgia,” he tweeted on November 16, 2018. “Stacey Abrams fought brilliantly and hard - she will have a terrific political future! Brian was unrelenting and will become a great Governor for the truly Wonderful People of Georgia!”

Once in office, Kemp took his cues from Trump, particularly on how to handle the coronavirus pandemic.

Kemp held off issuing a shelter-in-place order for his state until early April – more than 10 days after California became the first state in the country to do so. As Ron Brownstein, a CNN contributor, tweeted at the time:

“The fact that so many GOP big state governors – in TX, FL & GA – all tightened statewide restrictions immediately after Trump finally let his advisers frame the full risk from the WH podium underscores how much his earlier minimizing contributed to the critical delays in those states.”

The point here is this: With the possible exception of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, there isn’t a single governor in the country who has been more openly praiseworthy of and loyal to Donald Trump than Brian Kemp. Not one.

And Kemp didn’t betray Trump. Or attack him or his policies publicly. Or, well, anything. He just did his job. And for that, he has become a Trump enemy.

If you are a Republican sitting on your hands – or putting your hands over your mouth – when asked about who won the election for fear of angering Trump, what has happened to Kemp should be an object lesson. Trump will never repay your loyalty and, when perhaps when you least expect it, he will turn on you. It’s not a question of “if” but “when.”

If Republicans are still standing behind Donald Trump, they need to do so knowing this: He wouldn’t – and won’t – do the same for you.