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.Ms. Loeffler, a financial services executive with no previous government experience, was appointed to the position in December 2019 after the long-serving Republican, Johnny Isakson, announced he would retire for health reasons. She is running in a special election for the seat this fall, facing nearly two dozen candidates in the jumbled race, including two well-financed Democrats.One opponent in particular — Representative Doug Collins, a Republican ally of Mr. Trump — has gained strength in the field.His rise has come as Ms. Loeffler faces questions about stock trades she made soon after being briefed about the threat of the coronavirus — she has denied any wrongdoing — and as Mr. Trump, in two recent Republican polls, has found himself in a statistical dead heat with Mr. Biden in a state the president won in 2016.Because the field is so crowded, Georgia officials expect no candidate to get a majority, forcing a runoff. And 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 has been made despite the general preference of the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell, that the party back its incumbents, and despite the Republican Senate campaign arm spending money to support Ms. Loeffler.Ms. Loeffler’s seat is one of a handful that Republicans have grown increasingly worried about. The others are held by Senator Cory Gardner of Colorado and Senator Martha McSally of Arizona.Ms. McSally’s seat in particular troubles Mr. Trump’s advisers. The president has repeatedly asked if her candidacy is adversely affecting his own prospects in a state that has become more competitive, people familiar with the discussions have said.
“Not only am I not dropping out, but I’m gonna win,” Loeffler said Thursday. “And no one’s going to intimidate me into thinking that that’s the right course for our party, for our state, for our country. I’m working hard to help reelect the president. I’m working hard to win my seat and keep the Senate in Republican hands.”
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. What’s more, she’s fighting off a serious challenge from Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.) — a strong ally of President Donald Trump — who is ahead in most recent public polling.
Since news of her stock trades broke, Loeffler has tried to erase the cloud hanging over her. She insists her financial transactions were done through a third-party adviser, vowed to divest from her individual stocks and recused herself from a Senate agriculture subcommittee. She’s also donated $1 million to provide food for hungry Georgians during the economic crisis.
But Loeffler’s portfolio threatens to overshadow everything else. And Collins knows it.
“Instead of working for the people of Georgia for the past five months in D.C., she seems to have been working for herself,” he said in an interview Thursday. “Because all she’s been able to do is have to explain her stock scandal and left her doing nothing else more than that.”
Just last week, Loeffler revealed that she handed over documents to the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Justice Department and the Senate Ethics Committee, one day after the FBI seized the phone of another senator facing his own stock trades problem, Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.).
The three testimonials spotlighted in U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s latest round of TV ads feature Georgians with different backgrounds but a common concern: The news media has unfairly targeted the newly appointed Republican.
Mary, identified as a grandmother, calls the media “trash.” Bo, a Vietnam veteran, says reporters don’t “want you to know the truth.” And Brian, a farmer, asserts that Loeffler is getting the same critical treatment as President Donald Trump.
“I can’t think of anyone than I would trust any moreso than Kelly and President Trump,” he says. “They know what we need to get back rolling again.”
Two other testimonials focus on entirely different topics: Loeffler’s pandemic response and her constituent services.
The anti-media ads are invoking the intense coverage of the disclosure that her advisers sold off large quantities of stocks in the weeks after she attended a Jan. 24 senators-only briefing on the coronavirus, which triggered a slow-burning controversy.
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