- The Washington Times
Monday, May 4, 2020

A poll in Georgia holds bad news for Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, while offering mixed messages for President Trump and state leaders, according to an account in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

In a closely watched Senate contest there that will determine who serves a full six-year term, Ms. Loeffler is the incumbent by virtue of being appointed by Gov. Brian Kemp. She is facing a serious conservative challenge, however, from Republican Rep. Doug Collins, a stalwart congressional backer of President Trump.

The poll was conducted at the behest of House Speaker David Ralston, a Republican allied with Mr. Collins and a sometime political sparring partner with Mr. Kemp, the AJC reported.

Mr. Trump finds himself tied with the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden, in the poll which was conducted April 25-27 and has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

On the other hand, respondents decisively favored Republicans when it came to a question of who they trusted to revive the economy by a margin of 50% to 36%.

Georgia will have a packed ballot this November, as both senate seats are being contested in addition to the presidential election. In one of the senate races, incumbent Republican David Perdue holds a 45% to 39% lead over Jon Osoff, his main Democratic challenger.

The other Senate race, which will be a full six-year term for whoever succeeds retired Republican Sen. Johnny Isaakson, will unfold as a “jungle primary” in which all candidates are on the November ballot regardless of party affiliation. If no candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, then the top two will face each other in a runoff.

For that reason, Democratic and Republican leaders tried to dissuade candidates from running, hoping their momentum could be channeled behind one hand-picked candidate. Both parties failed in that goal.

For Republicans, that means Ms. Loeffler must fend off Mr. Collins and the Democratic field. A wealthy businesswoman who was at the center of a scandal recently involving senators unloading stocks after private briefings on the coronavirus, Ms. Loeffler has vowed to spend at least $20 million of her own money on the race.

The latest internal Republican Party poll suggests she will need to, as it puts Mr. Collins comfortably ahead with 29%. Ms. Loeffler is well behind at 11 percent, tied with two Democratic candidates, Matt Libermann and Raphael Warnock.

Among Republicans, Mr. Collins lead is even more substantial, as he beat Ms. Loeffler there by a 62% to 18% margin, according to the poll.

“Loeffler’s campaign has been deceased for some time now,” said Dan McLagan, spokesman for the Collins campaign. “Her consultants are reenacting ‘Weekends at Bernie’s‘ - waving the limbs of its lifeless form hoping to pocket a percentage off yet another multi-million dollar TV buy before packing it in. They’ve already spent north of $10 million and they are in fourth place — and she’s an incumbent senator.”

The poll obtained by the newspaper offers the first snapshot of Georgia’s political landscape in some time, given the coronavirus health emergency.

Democrats looking to unseat Mr. Perdue held a virtual debate Sunday at which long-shots tried to chip away at Mr. Ossoff’s presumed lead. With mountains of out-of-state cash and media behind him, Mr. Ossoff made a hard run in 2017 for a special election to the U.S. House before losing to Republican Karen Handel.

“People know you, but not enough to want to vote for you,” said Teresa Tomlinson, a former mayor of Columbus, Georgia.

Mr. Ossoff returned fire in the streaming forum, noting that Ms. Tomlinson wasn’t even among the Democrats polled.

Mr. Perdue has no Republican opposition. The Democratic primary in that race is scheduled for June 9.

• James Varney can be reached at jvarney@washingtontimes.com.

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