Is Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia Going to Buck Trump by Picking His Own Choice for Senate Seat?

President prefers Rep. Doug Collins for the position — there is concern in GOP circles about what may transpire here

Image Credit: Screenshot, C-SPAN

GOP Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia is expected this week to name business executive Kelly Loeffler to fill the remaining Senate term of Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), who is retiring mid-term for health reasons.

That information is from numerous sources.

There is concern in GOP circles regarding the choice of Loeffler over the more conservative Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) (shown above).

Collins has gained popularity with the base over his performance on the House Intelligence Committee’s impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.

He is also the ranking GOP member of the House Judiciary Committee — the focus now of the impeachment action beginning on Wednesday.

Trump favors Collins — though the GOP Senate campaign arm will back Loeffler. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday indicated that Kemp’s pick will have the full support of the GOP Establishment, as Politico noted in a piece.

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These competing power centers could set up an “Alabama scenario.”

In Alabama in 2017, hardline conservative Judge Roy Moore won the primary over President Trump’s anointed candidate, Sen. Luther Strange (R-Ala.).

Strange had been appointed to office upon the departure of then-Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who left to become attorney general in the Trump administration.

Democrat nominee Doug Jones ran to the Right in the general election — and won.

Related: How Doug Jones Shocked Alabama Republicans in 2017

Many attributed the surprise Jones victory to GOP intra-party bad blood due to Moore’s primary win and Moore’s hard-Right stands that alienated many swing voters.

Loeffler is criticized because she’s had ties to Planned Parenthood, donated $750,000 to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign in 2012, and gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to former GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan’s campaign and PACs.

While the first allegation could cost her with socially conservative GOP Georgia voters, the second and third do not hold water.

Here’s why: Romney was the 2012 nominee against President Barack Obama. So it would have been natural and lauded in GOP circles to donate to Romney against Democrat incumbent Obama. And when he was speaker, Paul Ryan was one of the top GOP officials in the nation.

Donating to him would have been, again, proof of loyalty to the GOP.

So Collins supporters will have to come up with something better than that, in this analyst’s view.

GOP hardliners are already going after the possible Loeffler choice — see these tweets.

Kemp, the winner of a close 2018 general election over Democrat nominee Stacy Abrams, is pivoting toward the middle Right with the Loeffler move to gain ground with moderate and swing voters in Georgia. So it can be said that Kemp’s move is on sound political ground.

Related: Georgia Republican Pledges to Erect ‘Red Wall’

Also, Collins has said he may run for the Senate in 2022, no matter if Kemp chooses Loeffler.

For a race not close to being fought yet, this is early jockeying indeed.

Granted, Collins is nowhere near as extreme as Moore. But if the GOP is once more split asunder between the pragmatic and ideological wings of the party, both may lose in the end, as happened in Alabama.

In this impeachment season, the true believers in the party should remember that if Romney had won in 2012 — or if Ryan had remained speaker in 2018 — the Republican Party would very likely not be facing a presidential impeachment today.

But that is not what happened. And as the head of the Republican Party, the president is entitled to his choice, his preference, his reasons.

We’ll see how this shakes out in 2022 — which should be too far down the road to focus on right now. There are other fish to fry.

David Kamioner
meet the author

David Kamioner is a veteran of U.S. Army Intelligence and an honors graduate of the University of Maryland's European Division. He also served with the Pershing Nuclear Brigade and the First Infantry Division. Subsequent to that he worked for two decades as a political consultant, was part of the American Red Cross Hurricane Katrina disaster relief effort in Louisiana, ran a homeless shelter for veterans in Philadelphia, and taught as a college instructor. He serves as a Contributing Editor for LifeZette.

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