December 8, 2019


The Battle for the GOP Starts in Georgia (Josh Kraushaar, 12/03/19, national Journal)

On paper, Loeffler is a GOP dream candidate. She's a successful businesswoman, hails from the vote-rich Atlanta suburbs, owns a WNBA team, and has the ability to self-finance an expensive campaign. A longtime GOP donor (including to Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign), she hails from the establishment wing of the party. But the same credentials that make her more electable are also drawing hackles from the president and some of his top lieutenants.

Trump wanted Kemp to pick conservative Rep. Doug Collins, one of his closest allies in the House, for the vacancy. Collins, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, had been openly campaigning for the seat. Collins reflects the Trump playbook: He's a partisan fighter defending the president from impeachment, hails from a heavily Republican rural district, and has a near-perfect conservative voting record in Congress.

Loeffler's pathway to winning the special election would be through improving the GOP's standing with women and suburbanites, while making inroads with nonwhite voters. A Collins campaign would rely on rallying the base in a state that still leans Republican, despite recent Democratic gains. Trump, his son, and prominent allies like Sean Hannity have all been championing Collins' candidacy.

What's ironic about Kemp's apparent decision to tap Loeffler is that he won his own election by running a Collins-esque, base-first campaign. Kemp ran as an unwavering Trump ally during his insurgent campaign last year, boasting about his support for gun rights and his hard-line stance on illegal immigration. He wouldn't have won the primary without Trump's surprise endorsement. Without strong GOP turnout in rural counties, he would have risked falling short of Stacey Abrams in the closely contested governor's race.

But Kemp recognizes that Republicans can't win future elections in his diversifying state without appealing to suburban voters in the diverse, fast-growing Atlanta suburbs. He appreciates that deteriorating GOP support among women would be politically devastating to the party in Georgia.

Posted by at December 8, 2019 4:07 PM