As news surfaced that Georgia Governor Brian Kemp would pick Atlanta businesswoman Kelly Loeffler to replace Senator Johnny Isakson, Vox contacted me, asking what I thought of the spat between President Trump’s allies and Kemp over the selection. It’s an important question, as it may help decide who really runs the Republican Party.
When word leaked out that WNBA Atlanta Dream co-owner would get the nod over Rep. Doug Collins, Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz went ballistic. “It’s not the establishment you are screwing with your donor-induced stubbornness,” Gaetz wrote in another tweet. “You are hurting President Trump. You know this because he told you.”
He’s not the only one. Sean Hannity, the Fox pundit, took to the airwaves to encourage his followers to flood Kemp’s office to pick someone other than Loeffler.
So what’s so bad about Loeffler? Well, she’s also a CEO of a Bitcoin company, which should raise some eyebrows. And she doesn’t have much electoral or government experience. But then again, Trump’s allies can’t really use that against her now, can they?
Moreover, Kemp knows that the Georgia GOP is a lot like the national Republican Party. Both got killed in the suburbs, and with women last year in the 2018 election. Kemp’s shown that he gets it. Will Trump? It remains to be seen, but his start to the 2020 campaign is not encouraging.
Gaetz persisted. “You are ignoring his request because you THINK you know better than @POTUS,” Gaetz tweeted. “If you substitute your judgement for the President’s, maybe you need a primary in 2022. Let’s see if you can win one w/o Trump.”
The Hollywood, Florida Republican best known for rashly charging into the SCIF during the impeachment inquiry demanding entrance (while Republicans were already inside, asking questions) assumes that Kemp owes his job to Trump, because the President swooped in to endorse Trump near the end of the primary runoff.
But that shows that Gaetz and Hannity really don’t really know how the Georgia GOP election progressed. Lt. Governor Cagle was the front-runner, but lost his lead after finishing first in the first round, after some embarrassing recordings were made of the him using his office to weaken other politicians. See realclearpolitics.com if you need confirmation.
In fact, Kemp’s lead had just swelled to 20 points in a poll just before Trump threw in an endorsement. So it appears that Trump needed to be seen as picking Kemp, rather than Kemp needing that Trump endorsement. The final tally was Kemp winning by 14 points, showing the limits of Donald Trump’s coattails.
Rep. Doug Collins is seen as a strong defender of Trump from the Mueller Report debate, but even he is not always in lock-step with Donald Trump. Collins voted not to abandon the Kurds to the whim of Turkey.
President Trump’s desire to control the Republican Party, with allies intimidating fellow GOP members, is sure to backfire. It did in Alabama in 2017, as he failed to pick the nominee, and then the general election, leading to an embarrassing conclusion. He should focus on his job, and let Governor Kemp do his.