ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia’s Republican governor announced Wednesday that he will appoint a wealthy businesswoman to the U.S. Senate, flouting President Donald Trump and highlighting a division within the GOP over whether moderate suburbanites or base voters are their key to victory in 2020 and beyond.
Gov. Brian Kemp’s selection of Kelly Loeffler pushed aside intense criticism from hardcore Trump advocates who said Loeffler is too moderate and inexperienced for the job. Many of those critics wanted Kemp to tap Rep. Doug Collins, one of Trump’s staunchest defenders in Congress.
The tension between Republicans underscores a divide within the party on how the GOP can best position itself for success in 2020: by firing up and turning out Trump conservatives or pivoting to try to win back suburban woman and moderates who have fled the party since Trump’s election. Kemp’s selection of Loeffler, and the support she’s received from Senate leadership, signals that party leaders recognize the perils of catering to the right and hitching every wagon to the president.
At the same time, Kemp and Loeffler moved quickly to fend off any challenge from the right, pitching the little-known candidate as a true Trump supporter and emphasizing her rural roots.