Report: Georgia governor defies Trump, appoints businesswoman over Doug Collins to Senate vacancy

So says the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, eliciting mixed feelings from Never Trumpers. On the one hand, congrats to Gov. Brian Kemp for believing that there’s more to GOP politics than doing whatever the president wants you to do at any given moment. I thought Romney was the only Republican left who believed that.

On the other hand, who the hell is Kelly Loeffler and what makes her preferable to Collins or any one of 500 other potential appointees for Johnny Isakson’s soon-to-be vacant seat?

Some of the criticism of Kemp for favoring Loeffler from righties over the past week smells like special pleading on Collins’s behalf. She donated in the past to Democrats, they say. Right, but so did Trump — and it was years ago in Loeffler’s case. She donated big bucks to Romney’s 2012 camp, especially relative to how much she donated to Trump three years ago, which I suspect is the real grievance here.

Collins is a definite no on removing Trump from office in the Senate on impeachment whereas Loeffler is unknown, they add. Please. There’s unlikely to be a single Republican vote to remove Trump at this point. And to the extent that there is, it won’t come from Loeffler. The whole point of appointing her to this vacancy is to set her up to run for a full term in 2020. If she voted to remove Trump, she’d be dead on arrival in the 2020 jungle primary and she surely understands that. She’s as much of a lock to oppose removal as Collins is, if only for reasons of self-interest. Maybe even more since she needs to make some big gestures to ingratiate herself to skeptical Trump fans.

She sits on the board of a hospital that performs abortions, they continue. Not true, according to Erick Erickson:

On abortion: One of the attacks on Loeffler is that she sits on the board of Grady Hospital, an abortion provider. The reality is that Grady long ago abandoned elective abortions and now only performs those necessary to preserve the life of a mother. The decision to abandon elective abortions came before Loeffler sat on the board.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported a few days ago that Grady hasn’t performed elective abortions in more than a decade. Some critics claim that the hospital has a few doctors on staff who perform abortions in their other practices; for what it’s worth, Erickson claims that multiple people have told him that Loeffler is a “devout, pro-life Catholic with a worldview that reflects that.” He’s clearly relaying Team Kemp’s perspective on her but this point is worth noting: “Conservatives love to say they want outsiders. Kemp is giving them what they want. That parts of the conservative movement are out to destroy Loeffler without knowing anything about her says a lot about the movement. It has been burned repeatedly by those it rallied around. But also, the movement is sometimes not willing to take leaps of faith with trusted allies when the movement should.”

Is there a “movement,” though, or is the movement just “Do What Trump Says”? This tweet a few days ago from loyal Trump crony Matt Gaetz doesn’t even make a pretense of objecting to Loeffler over a policy issue or biographical footnote. It’s pissy towards Kemp purely because he defied the leader:

All of that said, what makes Loeffler more appealing than any number of established Georgia Republicans? She’s not even a native of the state: According to this bio, she was born and raised in Illinois. She’s the CEO of a financial services firm and the owner of a WNBA team. What issues interest her? Will she be good on the stump? Can she win over skeptical Trumpers? Who knows, so why would Kemp take a chance instead of sticking with a better known political commodity? Kemp held an unusual open audition for candidates to succeed Isakson in the Senate, inviting them to submit their applications for consideration; Loeffler apparently didn’t submit hers until just a few hours before the deadline, leading to suspicion that she was encouraged to do so by Kemp — possibly even with a guarantee that she’d be the pick if she formally applied. There *is* an electoral logic to choosing a candidate like her: She’s got all the money she’d need to bankroll her own campaign and, as a successful professional woman, it *may* be that she’d be more competitive with the suburban voters who have been drifting away from the GOP in the Trump era than a Trumpy right-winger like Collins would. Georgia is a state that’s turning purple, remember. Kemp himself knows that firsthand, having defeated Stacey Abrams by a whisker.

So Kemp’s giving suburbanites the sort of candidate whom he *thinks* they’ll like. But Martha McSally is also a candidate whom one would *think* Republican voters might like, yet she lost a Senate race in Arizona and looks like she might lose a second one next year. One wouldn’t guess that a rich lifelong New Yorker would hold some special appeal to white working-class Republican voters but the 2016 election reminded us that intangibles count for a lot in politics. I have no idea if Loeffler will connect with suburban voters and neither does Kemp. And if other Republicans enter the jungle primary, which Doug Collins hasn’t ruled out, the hard feelings that result within the party may doom whoever wins. Kemp’s choice already puts Trump in a potentially agonizing position: If Collins primaries Loeffler, whom does the president support? If he backs his pal Doug, he’s inciting an intra-party war and neutralizing the advantage Loeffler will have gained via her (brief) Senate incumbency. If he backs Loeffler for electability reasons, he’ll have betrayed Collins and sent that message that Republican governors who defy him face no penalty for doing so.

Via the Daily Caller, here’s Collins refusing to rule out a primary challenge to Loeffler.