Georgia Governor Brian Kemp’s is taking a huge political risk by picking businesswoman Kelly Loeffler to take over for retiring U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson. He’s committing two GOP sins that could prove to be his undoing if she’s not the conservative Republican he hopes she is. First, he’s appointing a relatively unknown potential “RINO” (Republican In Name Only) who heavily supported Mitt Romney in 2012. Second, he’s doing so against the wishes of President Trump. Thankfully for him, he has three years to put these things behind him, but only if Loeffler performs well. If she doesn’t, this move will be his undoing.
Many are already calling him out for his soon-to-be-announced pick. Conservative groups, right-leaning news publications, and Tea Party activists are supposedly blowing up his phone lines objecting to Loeffler as a “Country Club Republican.” She donated to Romney’s PACs in 2012 to the tune of $750,000. Granted, he was the Republican nominee for President and at the time he wasn’t known as the anti-conservative RINO he is today. But she has also donated heavily to former Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, Romney’s running mate, who has been a known Establishment GOP operative for years.
But there are unfair associations being called out. Her ownership of a WNBA team means all of their dirty, progressive laundry is attached to her. The league’s support for Planned Parenthood and its association with Kemp’s opponent in 2018, Democrat Stacey Abrams, is being used as evidence that Loeffler is not a conservative. That’s a stretch; just because she owns a team in a league that is unabashedly progressive doesn’t mean her politics match. Of course, she would need to sell her interests in the team if she becomes a Senator, so that will be put behind her.
Dooley said that she has reservations about Loeffler’s ties to Planned Parenthood as well as to Democrat icon Stacey Abrams. Loeffler is the co-owner and co-chairman of the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA) Atlanta Dream.
After the Trump administration announced plans in 2018 to cut family planning funding from abortion providers such as Planned Parenthood, WNBA President Lisa Borders said that she and the league “stands with Planned Parenthood.”
Borders’ statement follows shortly after the WNBA announced its “Take a Seat, Take a Stand” program, which provides donations to one of six organizations, including Planned Parenthood, for every WNBA ticket purchased. Loeffler’s team also promoted the program, which favors donations to the abortion provider Planned Parenthood.
The potential Senate Republican nominee also has strong ties to former Democrat gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. In August, Abrams joined the WNBA players’ union.
Some would note that in her application for the spot, she promised Kemp that she was a strong supporter of President Trump and a conservative agenda. But her “strong support” for the President didn’t manifest until recently when she donated $100,000 to his PAC. She didn’t donate to him at all in 2016. Her recent donation is seen by some as a ploy to give her “MAGA credibility.”
At this point, it doesn’t matter. She’s going to be the Senator. It’s unlikely the President or conservatives can dissuade Kemp from picking her because it has already been noted publicly that the President is pushing for Representative Doug Collins to fill it. If Kemp backtracked on Loeffler at this stage an picked Collins, it would be used as fodder for Democrats to paint him as a lackey to the President.
Over the past year, Kemp has worked to be his own man. He has a strong record. He has growing approval. An AJC poll from last week that had a flawed sample skewed to the Democrats found Kemp had 54% approval and had majority support of women and men. Correct the sample and Kemp’s approval from both groups is substantially higher. His approval exists despite repeated efforts from Democrats to delegitimize him due to the 2018 election and the fetal heartbeat legislation. In fact, I know of private polling that has Kemp closer to 60% approval.
For Kemp to now appoint Doug Collins would be cast as him doing Trump’s bidding after working for a year to be his own man. It would make it look like Kemp could be bullied, is not his own man, and it would set a dangerous precedent for others wanting the Governor’s favor.
On top of all of this, President Trump’s Georgia supporters are going to give Kemp wide latitude on the pick because he beat Stacey Abrams and stood up to progressives by signing the fetal heartbeat legislation. He has street cred with these voters and the President trying to pressure him on this gives him a lot of credibility with voters who don’t trust him.
Erick Erickson is correct in saying Kemp is essentially backed into a corner that prevents him from picking Collins. It’s already out there that the President wants Collins and Kemp favors Loeffler. He’s stuck between being seen as having no backbone or not supporting the President. But he can make up for it. Or, to be more accurate, Loeffler can make up for it on Kemp’s behalf. If her voting record and vocal support for the President shines through after she’s appointed, all will be forgiven and this whole mess will be behind Kemp. But every misstep she makes will reflect on him going forward. If she criticizes the President, essentially so is Kemp. If she does something that draws the ire of conservatives, he’ll feel the heat as well.
By nominating a potential RINO in Loeffler, Brian Kemp is placing his political future in her hands. If she represents Georgia as a conservative, he’ll be fine. If her pro-Romney tendencies come out, he and she will share in their demise.