Republicans terrified civil war among 2 Trump allies could sink GOP Senate prospects in Georgia: report
On Tuesday, Bloomberg News reported that Republicans are starting to worry that the ongoing fight between two allies of President Donald Trump in a Georgia Senate contest could jeopardize their chances of holding the seat departed by Sen. Johnny Isakson — and by extension, their Senate majority.
The conflict is between Rep. Doug Collins, a Trump bulldog who led the GOP efforts against impeachment in the House, and Kelly Loeffler, a businesswoman appointed by Gov. Brian Kemp to the Senate vacancy despite lobbying from Trump to pick Collins. Both are running in the Senate special election, which, under Georgia law, will feature a “jungle primary” in which everyone from both parties runs on the same ballot and the top two advance to a runoff if no one wins a majority.
Both candidates have cast themselves as the real ally of the president, and both at times have earned Trump’s praise. But different factions of the GOP are backing both, and the race is getting ugly.
“Collins, who has represented northeastern Georgia in the House since 2013, is a well-known fixture on Fox News and other conservative outlets,” wrote reporter Billy House. “He’s backed by high-profile conservatives including former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, who won the state’s 2008 presidential primary, American Conservative Union Chairman Matt Schlapp, Fox News host Sean Hannity, and conservative radio host Mark Levin. Collins has been invited to speak this week at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference run by Schlapp outside Washington. Loeffler isn’t on the line-up.”
Allies of Collins, wrote House, have “launched broadsides against Loeffler as politically untested and anything but a Trump Republican, flagging her past support for Utah’s GOP Senator Mitt Romney. They’ve even questioned her depiction as a hunter in a posed ad with a shotgun over one shoulder, mocking her expensive outfit and saying she doesn’t have a Georgia hunting license.”
On the flipside, “Loeffler, as the incumbent, has support from the National Republican Senatorial Committee controlled by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The committee’s policy is to blacklist any political companies that work for candidates challenging a GOP incumbent. That has upset the Collins campaign, which accused the NRSC of trying to shut down competition.” She has the support of Kemp, Sens. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Tom Cotton (R-AR), and the right-wing Club for Growth.
Trump appears uncertain of how to resolve this tension. This weekend, he floated the idea of naming Collins as Director of National Intelligence, which would clear the Senate field for Loeffler, but Collins stated in no uncertain terms he was uninterested in the offer.
By contrast, Democrats in Georgia are far more unified. While they have three candidates — former Ebenezer Baptist Church pastor Raphael Warnock, entrepreneur Matt Lieberman, and former federal prosecutor Ed Tarver — Democratic leadership has overwhelmingly coalesced behind Warnock. The result could be that whichever Republican advances to the runoff, they will be badly weakened from intraparty fighting, and vulnerable to defeat.