President Donald Trump recently hinted he could intervene in the bitter Republican race between Sen. Kelly Loeffler and Rep. Doug Collins. The Gainesville congressman has a different perspective.
"He's not getting in this race," the four-term lawmaker told The Georgia Recorder of the president, adding that Trump "respects the senator and her position and he knows me intimately."
Then: "I respect the fact that he's staying out of it."
Those are confident words from Collins, who declined to elaborate when reached over the weekend. Both he and Loeffler have engaged in a full-on scramble to lock up Trump’s support, eager to pounce on a retweet or stray remark for any sign of favor.
The president has stayed publicly neutral — although Trump privately lobbied Gov. Brian Kemp to tap Collins, one of his most vocal supporters in Congress, on three occasions before he appointed Loeffler to succeed retired U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson.
Trump’s endorsement would be pivotal in the November vote, a special election that will feature multiple candidates from all parties on the same ballot.
That means there are no primaries to hash out nominees, raising the prospect of a January runoff – and fears from Republicans that the intraparty feud could help Democrat Raphael Warnock flip the seat.
More recently, though, the president floated the idea that one of the two could leave the race during a speech at the White House celebrating the defeat of the Democratic-led attempt to remove him from office.
“I know, Kelly, that you’re going to end up liking him a lot,” Trump said of Collins, whom the president called an “unbelievable friend.” He added: “Something’s going to happen that’s going to be very good. I don’t know; I haven’t figured it out yet.”
The president’s remarks triggered immediate talk in Georgia GOP circles that Collins could be in line for a judgeship or another appointment, or that Loeffler could be tapped for a premier position. Both camps dismissed the idea that such a move could be in the works.
At an event with Kemp on Friday, Loeffler was asked about her courtship of Trump, which has involved repeated pledges that she’ll support his agenda and a vote to acquit him at his impeachment trial.
“Nothing is going to take my eye of what I went to Washington to do – which is to fight for all Georgians and make sure that we’re serving our families, our veterans, our farmers,” she said. “There’s so much work to do.”
More recent AJC coverage of the Senate race:
Loeffler vs. Collins fight sets off dash for GOP support
With three major Senate candidates, Georgia political landscape erupts
Trump hints at Republican compromise in messy Georgia Senate race
Huckabee endorses Doug Collins in Georgia Senate race
Georgia Senate: Loeffler ally pummels ‘spend again’ Collins in new ad
The Jolt: Surrogate groups step up for Kelly Loeffler
Georgia donors pour millions into 2020 hopefuls’ campaigns