Political News

The real reason Kelly Loeffler attacked Mitt Romney over impeachment

Posted January 28, 2020 12:42 p.m. EST

— The attack came seemingly out of the blue.

On Monday afternoon, newly appointed Georgia Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler tweeted this:

"After 2 weeks, it's clear that Democrats have no case for impeachment. Sadly, my colleague @SenatorRomney wants to appease the left by calling witnesses who will slander the @realDonaldTrump during their 15 minutes of fame. The circus is over. It's time to move on! #gapol."

Which, well, ouch. Loeffler, appointed to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of former Republican Sen. Johnny Isakson, hasn't even been in office for a month. And usually, senators don't make publicly attacking a colleague -- especially one who was your party's 2012 presidential nominee -- a priority in their first month in office.

After all, Loeffler could have very easily asked to speak with Romney off the Senate floor to tell him she disagreed with his belief that former national security adviser John Bolton's allegations about President Donald Trump and Ukraine make it important for the Senate to hear from Bolton personally.

But Loeffler chose to make her critique of Romney as public as possible -- and by tagging the President in the tweet, did everything she could to ensure he saw it.

All of which raised a simple question: Why?

We got that answer Monday night when the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Greg Bluestein broke the news that Rep. Doug Collins was actively preparing to run against Loeffler this year. Wrote Bluestein:

"Collins, who is set to be at the Georgia Statehouse on Tuesday, has started to line up campaign staff and call politicians and supporters to inform them of his decision to enter the race, according to several people who received the calls but requested anonymity to discuss private conversations."

Collins is a major favorite of Trump who, on at least three occasions, pushed for Republican Gov. Brian Kemp to appoint the House member to the Isakson seat. Collins came to prominence as the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee during the impeachment investigation into Trump's conduct in regard to Ukraine.

"Great job by @RepDougCollins of Georgia over the weekend in representing the Republican Party, and myself, against the Impeachment Hoax!" tweeted Trump in early December after an appearance by Collins on "Fox News Sunday."

Kemp was elected in a bitter and extremely tightly contested 2018 race that many Democrats alleged was plagued by voting irregularities (Kemp was serving as secretary of state and the chief election officer for the state while simultaneously running for governor). As a result, Kemp, as governor, regarded the pick as an attempt to shore up weak constituencies for him that he will need in his 2022 race. That's suburban GOP women, not Republican base voters. Hence Loeffler, not Collins.

Which, politically speaking, is an utterly defensible decision for Kemp. But it makes Loeffler's political calculus among Republicans complicated. Because she is a largely, still an unknown commodity among the base Republicans she needs to win. And Collins is a hero among that group.

Loeffler, then, needs to prove to conservatives that she can be just as Trump-y as Collins. And what better way to do that then to attack Romney -- a "Republican in Name Only" to many Trump lovers -- over his alleged sympathy to Democratic views on impeachment.

(Sidebar: One thing working in Loeffler's favor is that the special election to fill out the remainder of Isakson's term will be an all-party primary vote on November 3. If no candidate gets 50% of the vote, the top two vote-getters would advance to a January 2021 runoff.)

Is it possible that Loeffler was entirely unaware of Collins' plans when she attacked Romney? I mean, I guess? But coincidences like that don't come along very often in politics. Like, almost ever.

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