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Was Trump right about Kelly Loeffler? He wanted Doug Collins all along

All Patriot NewsJanuary 9, 20219min
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ATLANTA — President Trump may have been right about Republican Rep. Doug Collins: The then-House member could have been a stronger candidate for the Georgia Senate seat held for a year by Kelly Loeffler, which she lost on Tuesday.

Loeffler conceded to Democratic candidate the Rev. Raphael Warnock late on Thursday, two days after their runoff for the remaining two years of the term won by Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson in 2016. Isakson left office two years earlier due to health reasons.

After her defeat and Republican Sen. David Perdue’s loss against Democratic filmmaker Jon Ossoff, the GOP has also conceded the Senate, and Democrats will control the chamber, narrowly, once their wins are certified and the pair take office.

Many Republicans, including high-ranking Georgia GOP officials, blame Trump for the electoral blows. But he may have been right that Collins could’ve been more electable than Loeffler.

Collins, then the top House Judiciary Committee Republican and one of the president’s chief impeachment defenders, was Trump’s pick to replace Isakson after Isakson announced his looming departure in summer 2019. And Collins was widely considered to be the safest candidate on GOP Gov. Brian Kemp’s shortlist, due to his polling and fundraising prowess.

Yet last January, Kemp, instead, appointed Loeffler, a millionaire businesswoman married to New York Stock Exchange chairman Jeffrey Sprecher.

Kemp’s logic was that the financial services executive, although a political novice, could appeal to suburban women who had left the Republican Party over Trump, particularly because Loeffler was a woman and an outsider. He had bonded with the self-funder, too, over their shared rural upbringings and business backgrounds.

With Democrats routinely notching a double-digit advantage among women in the Trump era, University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock said Kemp based his decision on the 2018 midterm cycle.

“Republicans had done real well in rural Georgia, and that’s how they managed to get elected but that increasingly the vote was in urban Georgia and, therefore, it would help to have a woman from urban Georgia,” he told the Washington Examiner.

Yet on Tuesday, Warnock appealed to 53{3c673d3ab703a335aa2de9fb6bc2c1f473b2ba555cfc5936ab3ce7b22bef001e} of women who responded to an exit poll conducted by a news outlet consortium amid the coronavirus pandemic.

In Tuesday’s aftermath, Kemp defended his choice, offering a statement through his office.

“The governor is proud of Sen. Loeffler and everything she has accomplished in the U.S. Senate on behalf of hardworking Georgians,” Kemp press secretary Mallory Blount told the Washington Examiner.

Kemp’s defiance of Trump over Collins, however, has had a cascade of run-on effects.

Kemp’s selection of Loeffler triggered a bruising 21-candidate general election, which became more like a primary between Loeffler and Collins following the congressman entering the race in January shortly after the senator was sworn in. The pair, who both chased Trump’s base, lobbed brutal attacks at one another.

Collins targeted Loeffler’s business record, including donations she and her husband made to Democrats and Democratic causes. He criticized her for ties to pro-abortion groups, such as Planned Parenthood, through her ownership of WNBA team the Atlanta Dream, as well.

Loeffler, in turn, focused on Collins’s criminal defense attorney record.

Bogged down by allegations she profited off a closed-door Senate briefing on COVID-19, Loeffler lifted herself out of the quagmire by seizing on the summer’s unrest. She angered players on her basketball team by standing against the protests, but she ginned up Republican voters with her stance.

In the end, Collins finished third behind Warnock and Loeffler, 20{3c673d3ab703a335aa2de9fb6bc2c1f473b2ba555cfc5936ab3ce7b22bef001e} support to Loeffler’s 26{3c673d3ab703a335aa2de9fb6bc2c1f473b2ba555cfc5936ab3ce7b22bef001e}.

Bullock, the professor, wasn’t sure whether Collins taking on Warnock “would have made much difference.” David Perdue, Bullock argued, had the benefit of six years incumbency and a famous Georgian last name thanks to his cousin Sonny, the state’s former governor and the Trump administration’s agriculture secretary, and still lost.

While Loeffler’s political inexperience may have hindered her, Bullock suggested her gender, too, had been a liability. If successful, Loeffler would’ve been Georgia’s first elected female senator. The only other woman senator, Rebecca Latimer Felton, was appointed as well. Felton, a white supremacist, was named the country’s first female senator in 1922 and was in office a single day.

Yet, whether it was Loeffler or Collins, the Republican would have still faced a better-organized Democratic grassroots effort. Democrats had been more hesitant to canvass voters in-person before Nov. 3 because of the pandemic, according to Bullock.

“The Democrats had a united message. They were encouraging people to go vote, maximizing turnout, while the Republican side, led by the president, were questioning the reliability of the system,” he said.

Loeffler or Collins would have similarly faced a singular Democratic candidate.

Even though Warnock wasn’t politically tested, he has deep ties to Georgia’s black community based on his tenure as senior pastor of Martin Luther King Jr.’s Ebenezer Baptist Church. And he ran on the potential of becoming Georgia’s first minority senator, outperforming Ossoff when all the votes had been counted.

“Many people have believed that a black Democratic candidate paid a price, that the electorate would be more likely to respond positively to a white Democrat than a black Democrat,” Bullock said. “Obviously, that didn’t happen.”

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