GOP infighting breaks out as Collins challenges Loeffler for Senate

In a move which has been anticipated for weeks, Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) announced on Wednesday that he would challenge new Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), prompting a swift rebuke from the campaign arm of Senate Republicans, foreshadowing what could turn into a year of bitter campaign recriminations for Republicans in Georgia.

"The shortsightedness in this decision is stunning," said National Republican Senatorial Committee Executive Director Kevin McLaughlin, whose group is solidly behind Loeffler.

"Doug Collins' selfishness will hurt David Perdue, Kelly Loeffler, and President Trump. Not to mention the people of Georgia who stand to bear the burden of it for years to come," the NRSC statement read.

Instead of a public rally or campaign announcement from back in Georgia, Collins went on the venue which matters most to many Republicans - and President Trump - making the announcement official on Fox and Friends.

"Collins frames his decision as doing 'what's best for GA' but there's essentially nothing served by this move other than his own ambition," said Washington-based GOP strategist Liam Donovan.

While Loeffler is more of a newcomer to GOP political circles, she brings to the table the ability to spend large amounts of money from her personal wealth.

Loeffler was appointed by Gov. Brian Kemp late last year.  She took office earlier this month in the Senate, replacing Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-GA), who retired due to health reasons.

While Loeffler has the backing of Senate Republicans, Collins may be banking on getting support from allies of President Trump, as the President has made it clear in the past that he likes Collins, who strongly defended the President during the House impeachment investigation of Mr. Trump.

The battle lines could make the next nine months somewhat tricky for other Georgia Republicans, as the Collins-Loeffler matchup - currently part of a 'jungle primary' in November - as a dividing line for the GOP in the state.

The decision by Collins to run for U.S. Senate means there are three seats in Congress which would have no incumbent running in 2020 from Georgia, as Rob Woodall, Tom Graves and Collins are all not seeking re-election.

The last that happened in Georgia was 2014 when Phil Gingrey, Paul Broun, and Jack Kingston did not run for re-election (Kingston ran for the US Senate, and lost to David Perdue in a primary runoff).

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