Opinion | Will Trump Ruin a Red Wave in 2022?

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By Matthew Continetti

Mr. Continetti is the author of the forthcoming book “The Right: The Hundred Year War for American Conservatism.”

Former Senator David Perdue knows how to crash a party. When he announced that he would seek the 2022 Republican nomination for governor in Georgia, challenging the incumbent, Brian Kemp, he did more than enter a primary race. He illustrated the dangers facing the G.O.P. in the coming year.

Georgia Republicans are divided over former President Donald Trump and torn between mainstream credibility and the conspiratorial fringe. Mr. Perdue — an ally of Mr. Trump — has made these divisions worse. The beneficiary? The Democrat Stacey Abrams.

Republicans worry about internal strife and outlandish messages that turn off swing voters because everything else is going their way. The party did well in last month’s elections. President Biden’s low approval ratings endanger Democrats in Congress, where Republicans must net only five seats in the House and one in the Senate to seize control.

Republican strength at the state level gives the party an advantage in drawing new maps of congressional districts, which will amplify their slim lead in the FiveThirtyEight estimate of the congressional generic ballot.

Yet history shows how expectations can be thwarted. Republicans have experienced hopeful times before — only to have the moment pass. They believed that disapproval of President Bill Clinton’s conduct would expand their majorities in 1998. They ended up losing five House seats. They believed that Mr. Trump would rally the base to support two incumbent senators during runoffs in Georgia last January. They lost both seats and control of the Senate.

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