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Kemp’s standing with the rank-and-file has, improbably, improved, according to interviews with more than 30 party officials, strategists and activists here. And in his partial rehabilitation — the product of a relentless focus on so-called election integrity issues and culture war staples to excite the base — Kemp may serve as a model for dozens of Republicans elsewhere who have incurred Trump’s public wrath and are seeking to regain their standing with Republicans at home.

Kemp’s fate looms especially large in Georgia, a swing state where Trump not only was defeated by Joe Biden but saw Republicans lose both U.S. Senate seats in the state’s runoff elections in January. Fearful that Trump’s frequent criticism of Kemp could lead to a damaging primary and depress Republican turnout in a close general election — potentially a rematch with Democrat Stacey Abrams — several Georgia-based Republicans and Republicans with ties to the state have privately appealed to Trump to hold back, according to multiple sources familiar with the conversations.

“I think he wins [next year’s GOP primary] with 65, 70 percent of the vote,” Robert Lee, a Georgia-based Republican strategist, said in a crowded hall shortly after Kemp spoke on Saturday afternoon.

That assessment — widely shared here — is one that Republicans blistered by Trump elsewhere could learn from. Earlier this year, Kemp’s polling had fallen off, GOP activists in several counties reprimanded him, and it was unclear whether the governor, seeking his second term next year, could even survive a primary challenge.

On Saturday, Kemp was met by a cheering section to compete with the booing. Then, he lingered for several hours in the convention halls — shaking hands and posing for photographs.

Clint Day, a former state senator who just months ago was far more pessimistic about Kemp’s prospects, said, “I think he could be reelected.”

The proximate cause of Kemp’s improved standing is the controversial voting law Kemp championed, which, among other restrictions, makes it more difficult to cast absentee ballots. Signing it in March not only reaffirmed his conservative credentials on voting access but cast him as a central figure in the GOP’s war over the issue with Democrats and corporate America.

Joel Allen, a party official in suburban Atlanta’s 6th Congressional District, said “Kemp really did a service to himself with SB 202,” referring to the voting bill.

And while Republicans may have been disappointed in Kemp they gained a common foil in Major League Baseball, which announced that it would move its All-Star Game out of Atlanta in protest of the legislation. Condemnations by two Georgia-headquartered companies, Coca-Cola and Delta, gave Kemp another platform to push back against perceived excesses of corporations and the left.

Kemp has also directly inserted himself into the GOP’s broader culture wars. In fundraising appeals in recent weeks, he has seized on leading wedge issues, saying critical race theory “has NO PLACE in our Georgia classrooms,” while pillorying “cancel culture” and “’Defund the Police’ nonsense taking hold in liberal strongholds and with the Democrats in Washington, D.C.”

Meanwhile, the governor has significantly relaxed coronavirus restrictions in the state, while issuing an executive order late last month banning state agencies from requiring Covid-19 vaccine passports.

By April, Kemp’s approval rating among Georgia Republicans had climbed 15 percentage points from its post-election low, according to Morning Consult, settling at 74 percent. Internal campaign polling showed improvement from earlier this year, as well.

“I’m in a lot better standing than what the media wants to tell people I am,” Kemp said on Saturday, while otherwise declining to comment.

At a rally at the Westin Jekyll Island on Friday night, Vernon Jones, a former Democrat-turned-Trump-supporting Republican who is Kemp’s most prominent opponent so far, called Kemp a “RINO,” and Jones’ supporters were among the most vocal booing Kemp the following day. Debbie Dooley, a founder of the Tea Party movement in Atlanta who is supporting Jones, called him “the Donald Trump of Georgia,” and a vocal contingent of Jones supporters crowded around him in the convention halls.

But Jones’ own history as a Democrat, in addition to the rich opposition research file on him, is disconcerting to many Republicans in the state.

“If his opponent’s Vernon Jones, I think Brian Kemp’s going to be the nominee,” said Jay Williams, a Georgia-based Republican strategist. “He’s a former Democrat, man … Vernon Jones is the crazy uncle we’ve known for a long time.”

The problem for the GOP, said Donna Rowe, a party official from Cobb County in the Atlanta suburbs, is that “we eat our own in the primary.”

“We’re still going to win it, but it’s going to be a bloodbath,” she said.

Kemp is not yet “out of the woods” with the base, Allen said. That was evident in the cacophony of boos he received during his remarks at the convention, a gathering that typically draws a state’s most fervent activists. The convention, one of the most widely attended in state history, featured many first-time delegates who had joined the convention largely because they believe the lie that the election was stolen from Trump.

Yet even among that far-right audience, Kemp has fared better than some other Georgia elected officials who refuted Trump’s baseless accusations of widespread voter fraud. One of them, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan, who along with Raffensperger did not attend the convention, recently announced he would not seek reelection. Another, Attorney General Chris Carr, was nearly drowned out by boos when addressing the crowd on Friday.

Raffensperger, however, has seen the worst of it — he not only repudiated Trump’s claims that the election was stolen, he was also closer in his office to the counting of ballots than Kemp. One of Raffensperger’s primary opponents, David Belle Isle, the former mayor of Alpharetta who Raffensperger defeated in a 2018 runoff for the nomination, distributed literature at the convention depicting Raffensperger with devil’s horns on his head. Rep. Jody Hice, who defended Trump’s effort to overturn the election and is running with his endorsement, distributed boot-shaped pins that read, “Boot Brad.”

The state party on Saturday overwhelmingly passed a resolution to censure Raffensperger.

Bruce Thompson, a Georgia state senator who had called for additional reviews of the November election, said Raffensperger is “done.” But he said the calculation surrounding Kemp has changed.

Though “the base is still pissed off,” he said, Kemp “has managed this as well as he could, as far as the pandemic and getting us open, being a governor … Brian has done a good job since the election with the economy and signing SB 202. And he’s traveling the state.”

That’s a formula that isn’t lost on Republicans who have angered Trump in other states. In Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey, similarly reviled by Trump — and censured by Republicans in his state — cheered conservatives when he issued an executive order in April banning the use of some “vaccine passports.”

Just as with Ducey, Trump derided Kemp as a “RINO” at the height of their post-election feud, when the former president pledged to campaign against Kemp in 2022. As late as April, Trump was asserting that Kemp “caved to the radical left-wing woke mob.” He said he was “ashamed” he endorsed Kemp in 2018.

But the governor’s rebound may limit Trump’s options in the state. Former Rep. Doug Collins, a Trump ally, said in April that he would not run for governor, after Trump floated him as a potential contender.

“If Brian Kemp keeps doing what he’s doing, which is the election law stuff, getting through another session with Dems saying he’s a terrible person,” Williams said, “I think he’s probably one really big issue away from kind of ensuring his nomination.”



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Guinea declares end to latest Ebola outbreak

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“I commend the affected communities, the government and people of Guinea, health workers, partners and everyone else whose dedicated efforts made it possible to contain this Ebola outbreak,” said Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.

“Based on the lessons learned from the 2014–16 outbreak and through rapid, coordinated response efforts, community engagement, effective public health measures and the equitable use of vaccines, Guinea managed to control the outbreak and prevent its spread beyond its borders.” The U.N. said it will continue to provide post-illness care.

The CDC welcomed the news in a statement.

“I commend the government and first responders in Guinea for ending the country’s Ebola outbreak,” said CDC Director Rochelle Walensky. “Our heartfelt sympathies are with the people who lost loved ones to this disease. CDC remains committed to supporting survivor programs and helping strengthen global preparedness and response capacities that can prevent or extinguish future Ebola outbreaks.”

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Hard-line judiciary head wins Iran presidency amid low turnout

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In initial results, former Revolutionary Guard commander Mohsen Rezaei won 3.3 million votes and moderate Abdolnasser Hemmati got 2.4 million, said Jamal Orf, the head of Iran’s Interior Ministry election headquarters. The race’s fourth candidate, Amirhossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, had around 1 million votes, Orf said.

Hemmati offered his congratulations on Instagram to Raisi early Saturday.

“I hope your administration provides causes for pride for the Islamic Republic of Iran, improves the economy and life with comfort and welfare for the great nation of Iran,” he wrote.

On Twitter, Rezaei praised Khamenei and the Iranian people for taking part in the vote.

“God willing, the decisive election of my esteemed brother, Ayatollah Dr. Seyyed Ebrahim Raisi, promises the establishment of a strong and popular government to solve the country’s problems,” Rezaei wrote.

The quick concessions, while not unusual in Iran’s previous elections, signaled what semiofficial news agencies inside Iran had been hinting at for hours: That the carefully controlled vote had been a blowout win for Raisi amid the boycott calls.

As night fell Friday, turnout appeared far lower than in Iran’s last presidential election in 2017. At one polling place inside a mosque in central Tehran, a Shiite cleric played soccer with a young boy as most of its workers napped in a courtyard. At another, officials watched videos on their mobile phones as state television blared beside them, offering only tight shots of locations around the country — as opposed to the long, snaking lines of past elections.

Balloting came to a close at 2.a.m. Saturday, after the government extended voting to accommodate what it called “crowding” at several polling places nationwide. Paper ballots, stuffed into large plastic boxes, were to be counted by hand through the night, and authorities said they expected to have initial results and turnout figures Saturday morning at the earliest.

“My vote will not change anything in this election, the number of people who are voting for Raisi is huge and Hemmati does not have the necessary skills for this,” said Hediyeh, a 25-year-old woman who gave only her first name while hurrying to a taxi in Haft-e Tir Square after avoiding the polls. “I have no candidate here.”

Iranian state television sought to downplay the turnout, pointing to the Gulf Arab sheikhdoms surrounding it ruled by hereditary leaders, and the lower participation in Western democracies. After a day of amplifying officials’ attempts to get out the vote, state TV broadcast scenes of jam-packed voting booths in several provinces overnight, seeking to portray a last-minute rush to the polls.

But since the 1979 revolution overthrew the shah, Iran’s theocracy has cited voter turnout as a sign of its legitimacy, beginning with its first referendum that won 98.2% support that simply asked whether or not people wanted an Islamic Republic.

The disqualifications affected reformists and those backing Rouhani, whose administration both reached the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and saw it disintegrate three years later with then-President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal of America from the accord.

Voter apathy also has been fed by the devastated state of the economy and subdued campaigning amid months of surging coronavirus cases. Poll workers wore gloves and masks, and some wiped down ballot boxes with disinfectants.

If elected, Raisi would be the first serving Iranian president sanctioned by the U.S. government even before entering office over his involvement in the mass execution of political prisoners in 1988, as well as his time as the head of Iran’s internationally criticized judiciary — one of the world’s top executioners.

It also would put hard-liners firmly in control across the government as negotiations in Vienna continue to try to save a tattered deal meant to limit Iran’s nuclear program at a time when Tehran is enriching uranium at its highest levels ever, though it still remains short of weapons-grade levels. Tensions remain high with both the U.S. and Israel, which is believed to have carried out a series of attacks targeting Iranian nuclear sites as well as assassinating the scientist who created its military atomic program decades earlier.

Whoever wins will likely serve two four-year terms and thus could be at the helm at what could be one of the most crucial moments for the country in decades — the death of the 82-year-old Khamenei. Speculation already has begun that Raisi might be a contender for the position, along with Khamenei’s son, Mojtaba.

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Apathy greets Iran presidential vote dominated by hard-liner

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“My vote will not change anything in this election, the number of people who are voting for Raisi is huge and Hemmati does not have the necessary skills for this,” said Hediyeh, a 25-year-old woman who gave only her first name while hurrying to a taxi in Haft-e Tir Square after avoiding the polls. “I have no candidate here.”

Iranian state television sought to downplay the turnout, pointing to the Gulf Arab sheikhdoms surrounding it ruled by hereditary leaders and the lower participation in Western democracies. But since the 1979 revolution overthrew the shah, Iran’s theocracy has cited voter turnout as a sign of its legitimacy, beginning with its first referendum that won 98.2% support that simply asked whether or not people wanted an Islamic Republic.

The disqualifications affected reformists and those backing Rouhani, whose administration both reached the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers and saw it disintegrate three years later with then-President Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal of America from the accord. Former hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, also blocked from running, said on social media he’d boycott the vote.

Voter apathy also has been fed by the devastated state of the economy and subdued campaigning amid months of surging coronavirus cases. Poll workers wore gloves and masks, and some wiped down ballot boxes with disinfectants.

If elected, Raisi would be the first serving Iranian president sanctioned by the U.S. government even before entering office over his involvement in the mass execution of political prisoners in 1988, as well as his time as the head of Iran’s internationally criticized judiciary — one of the world’s top executioners.

It also would put hard-liners firmly in control across the government as negotiations in Vienna continue to try to save a tattered deal meant to limit Iran’s nuclear program at a time when Tehran is enriching uranium at its highest levels ever, though it still remains short of weapons-grade levels. Tensions remain high with both the U.S. and Israel, which is believed to have carried out a series of attacks targeting Iranian nuclear sites as well as assassinating the scientist who created its military atomic program decades earlier.

Whoever wins will likely serve two four-year terms and thus could be at the helm at what could be one of the most crucial moments for the country in decades — the death of the 82-year-old Khamenei. Speculation already has begun that Raisi might be a contender for the position, along with Khamenei’s son, Mojtaba.

Khamenei cast the first vote from Tehran, urging the public to “go ahead, choose and vote.”

Raisi, wearing a black turban that identifies him in Shiite tradition as a direct descendant of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, voted from a mosque in southern Tehran. The cleric acknowledged in comments afterward that some may be “so upset that they don’t want to vote.”

“I beg everyone, the lovely youths, and all Iranian men and women speaking in any accent or language from any region and with any political views, to go and vote and cast their ballots,” Raisi said.

But few appeared to heed the call. There are more than 59 million eligible voters in Iran, a nation of over 80 million people. However, the state-linked Iranian Student Polling Agency has estimated a turnout will be just 44%, which would be the lowest since the revolution. Officials gave no turnout figures Friday, though results could come Saturday.

Fears about a low turnout have some warning Iran may be turning away from being an Islamic Republic — a government with elected civilian leadership overseen by a supreme leader from its Shiite clergy — to a country more tightly governed by its supreme leader, who already has final say on all matters of state and oversees its defense and atomic program.

“This is not acceptable,” said former President Mohammad Khatami, a reformist who sought to change the theocracy from the inside during eight years in office. “How would this conform to being a republic or Islamic?”

For his part, Khamenei warned of “foreign plots” seeking to depress turnout in a speech Wednesday. A flyer handed out on the streets of Tehran by hard-liners echoed that and bore the image of Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2020. A polling station was set up by Soleimani’s grave on Friday.

Some voters appeared to echo that call.

“We cannot leave our destiny in the hands of foreigners and let them decide for us and create conditions that will be absolutely harmful for us,” said Tehran voter Shahla Pazouki.

Also hurting a moderate like Hemmati is the public anger aimed at Rouhani over the collapse of the deal, despite ongoing talks in Vienna to revive it. Iran’s already-ailing economy has suffered since, with double-digit inflation and mass unemployment.

“It is useless,” said Ali Hosseini, a 36-year-old unemployed resident in southern Tehran, about voting. “Anyone who wins the election after some time says he cannot solve problem of the economy because of intervention by influential people. He then forgets his promises and we poor people again remain disappointed.”

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