“Increasingly Concerned”: GOP Worries Grow as Loeffler and Collins Intraparty War Continues

May 29, 2020

As news breaks that Loeffler was under investigation by the FBI, the unelected senator doubles-down on spending millions to slam Collins while her own party doubts her ability to win

ATLANTA — This week, unelected “political mega-donor” Senator Kelly Loeffler and her opponent, top Trump ally Congressman Doug Collins, continued to ramp up their escalating intraparty war at a time when Georgia Republicans can least afford it.

Coming off a tide of negative stories and poor polling numbers, Loeffler began her week by turning her fire on Collins with a new “barrage of attacks,” using her millions to try and rip apart her competitor as her own campaign continues to sink. Yet despite their best attempts to tear the other down, neither Loeffler nor Collins can get any support from the White House, which continues to be “increasingly concerned” about the GOP’s prospects in Georgia as the Vice President today makes his second visit to the state in the last week.

Making matters only worse: news finally broke this week that Loeffler had been under investigation by the FBI over her coronavirus stock trades — a development she immediately tried to spin despite leaving several critical questions unanswered. But no matter how much she tries to blame shift her way out of her scandal, Loeffler still can’t shake worries from her own party as she and Collins continue their multimillion-dollar slugfest.

Read more about the GOP’s no-win situation in Georgia:

NYT: White House Worries About Kelly Loeffler’s Senate Prospects in Georgia

  • President Trump’s advisers are increasingly concerned about Senator Kelly Loeffler’s campaign in Georgia, a newly competitive state where the president’s own poll numbers have tightened against former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., according to people briefed on the discussions.
  • The president’s team is planning to stay out of the race until the runoff approaches, which wouldn’t be until January 2021, according to the people briefed on the discussions. 
  • That decision puts the White House at odds with the Republican Senate Campaign arm, which has actively supported Ms. Loeffler and attacked Mr. Collins, and with the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, whose general preference is that the party back its incumbents.
  • Much of Ms. Loeffler’s brief tenure in Washington has been marked by questions about the millions of dollars in stock sales she made shortly after she attended a briefing for senators with top government health officials in late January.
  • The anxieties over the Georgia race come as multiple surveys indicate that the presidential campaign will also be competitive there.
  • G.O.P. officials who have talked to Mr. Trump’s political advisers say that the White House is growing concerned about the state, and that they have been watching voter registration numbers there with trepidation.

AJC: How Pence’s visit highlighted Georgia’s tense GOP Senate race

  • No longer can a White House trip to Georgia be a simple affair, not with two powerful Georgia GOP factions warring over the administration’s favor.
  • Instead, the visits take on the air of a high school drama, as the two seek to be in the afterglow of the big-man-on-campus.
  • A spate of recent polls, some by Republican groups, show Loeffler either deadlocked with Collins or trailing him badly. She recently acknowledged she handed over documents to investigators probing the sales.
  • And the presence of Collins in the race has denied Loeffler a circling-of-the-wagons movement to rally Republicans behind her, and his allies are upping the pressure on Loeffler to stand aside to allow the four-term congressman to unite the GOP.
  • With Joe Biden threatening to compete in Georgia in November, some administration officials worry that Loeffler can damage down-ballot contenders.
  • Either way, Loeffler shows no signs of backing down. On the day of Pence’s visit, she released the latest volley of ads in a $4 million TV campaign that seeks to reframe her as an able administrator in the pandemic era – and blames the “trash” media for her problems.

POLITICO: Plagued by stock trades, Loeffler vows she won’t drop out

  • Kelly Loeffler is behind in the polls and best known for her fortuitously timed stock trades.
  • Loeffler’s five months as a senator have not been easy. She’s facing attacks from the left and right for selling millions of dollars in stocks after receiving a private briefing on the coronavirus pandemic. 
  • The intraparty warfare over the seat could cede ground to Democrats in Georgia, with both Loeffler and her colleague, Sen. David Perdue (R-Ga.), up in November and the Senate majority up for grabs.
  • Privately, some Republican senators and aides have more dour assessments. They understand the NRSC needs to back incumbents to guard against primary challenges, which have dogged Republicans in the past, but several said she’s in a dangerous situation and might need to drop out of the race.
  • “The polling is not great,” said one GOP senator.

Roll Call: Justice Department closes investigations into Loeffler, Feinstein, Inhofe

  • Three senators under Department of Justice scrutiny for stock trades after coronavirus briefings had their matters closed by the agency Tuesday, but a fourth lawmaker — Sen. Richard M. Burr, R-N.C. — remains under investigation.
  • Although the DOJ investigations have run their course for the trio of senators, that does not necessarily mean the Securities and Exchange Commission’s inquiries are halted, according to Jacob S. Frenkel, a former senior counsel in the SEC’s enforcement division.
  • “The closing of the DOJ investigations does not mean that the SEC’s investigations are closed, because the burden of proof for the Government is much higher in a criminal case — reasonable doubt — than in a civil enforcement action — preponderance of the evidence,” Frenkel said.
  • Judith Burns, an SEC spokesperson, declined to comment on whether the SEC is investigating any of the senators.
  • Loeffler began selling off stock on Jan. 24, the same day White House officials briefed her and her Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee colleagues about the coronavirus. She sold over $1 million in stock, according to The Daily Beast.

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