President Donald Trump’s surprisingly public rebuke of Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s reopening plans is still reverberating through state capitals across the country and is contributing to decisions by some governors to take a slower approach in opening businesses in their state, Republican officials in a half-dozen states told CNN.
“No governor wants to endure the same wrath as Brian Kemp,” a top adviser to a Republican governor said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to avoid drawing similar ire from the White House.
“We all watched that very carefully and no one wants to be called out like that by the President,” another aide to a Republican governor said.
The President’s conflicting guidance – initially calling to “liberate” states, but then sharply criticizing Kemp for opening some businesses on Friday – has led to an often confusing, messy patchwork of state-by-state rules.
The reopening of some Georgia businesses, which started including restaurants on Monday, was at odds with White House Task Force guidance for states to first have a 14-day decline in coronavirus cases. After initially signaling his support for Kemp, Trump criticized the move after his medical advisers voiced strong concern.
After the President changed his tune and reprimanded Kemp last week, one ally of the President told CNN the hope among those concerned about Georgia was that it would send a signal to other GOP governors in red states to slow down. The concern was that other Republicans – already hearing from conservatives and seeing protests – would feel pressure to follow Georgia. Instead, Trump’s comments about Kemp gave them cover to reopen slower.
While the Trump-Kemp dynamic is unique to Georgia, given the underlying politics and relationship between the two, the scolding from the President still stung and served as a potential warning as several governors are set to outline plans for the next steps in reopening businesses in their states.
But the President’s pointed words to Kemp, a Republican ally, were impossible for governors to ignore. In many ways, the Trump-Kemp dynamic is unique to Georgia, given the underlying politics and relationship between the two, but the President’s message still stung.
This week, as several governors are set to outline plans for the next steps in reopening businesses in their states, Trump’s angry admonition stands as a potential warning.
In South Carolina, Gov. Henry McMaster signaled Sunday he intended to move slower than his actions first indicated last week.
He is set to issue a new order on Monday calling for an extension to restrictions in the state. Even though he opened beaches and some businesses last week if they abided by severe capacity restrictions, he said it was too soon for a broader reopening, given the rising cases of Covid-19 in his state.
“We’re still facing a very serious disease and contagion,” McMaster told reporters Sunday in Greenville. He added, “We must realize that the disease is here. We have to be very careful.”
In Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis is also suddenly moving slower, saying he is not ready to give a specific date on when he will lift restrictions. He told reporters Sunday he wants to do “everything in the right way.”