Ten GOP presidential candidates will be attending this weekend’s RedState Gathering in Atlanta. But Georgia Republican Gov. Nathan Deal won’t be there to welcome them.
Deal’s chief of staff, Chris Riley, said a scheduling conflict forced the governor to pull out of his Friday morning speaking slot. He did not elaborate.
Deal has so far tread warily in this GOP nominating contest. Rather than endorsing a single candidate, he’s voiced support for a quartet of past and current GOP governors who showed him some love during his last two campaigns: Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, Chris Christie of New Jersey, Jeb Bush of Florida and Bobby Jindal of Louisiana.
All four of those candidates will be at RedState, along with other Southern politicians who are in similar binds over endorsements. Among them is South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, whose endorsement in the first-in-the-South primary is coveted by candidates. She’s also set to speak Friday morning.
Erick Erickson, the talk show host who organized the gathering, said he was “really disappointed” by Deal’s decision to back out.
“This will be the first time the governor of the state of Georgia where we have the Gathering has not played a part,” said Erickson, who said the crowd will be mainly Georgians.
Also worth a mention: Deal has never seemed to relish the red-meat political gatherings that are staples of the political circuit. Now that he is in the final stretch of his public career – he’s vowed he will never again run for public office – these events may have dropped a few notches on his priority list.