ATLANTA - The not-so-surprising announcement that Congressman Doug Collins is running for Senate means Republicans will have to choose between two big-name candidates next November.
"I'm just gonna confirm, we're in for the Georgia Senate race," Rep. Collins said in an exclusive interview on FOX News Wednesday morning.
Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Georgia, currently holds the seat vacated by the recently retired Sen. Johnny Isakson. Governor Brian Kemp appointed Loeffler in December, despite President Donald Trump urging him to choose Collins.
In her short time in office, Loeffler has made it a point to align herself with the president, tweeting photos with him and publicly attacking those behind Trump's impeachment.
Hours after Collins's announcement, Loeffler's campaign released a statement about his decision to enter the race.
"Anyone is welcome to run for the United States Senate," said Press Secretary Caitlin O'Dea. "Kelly Loeffler grew up on a farm, worked her way through college, and built a successful career in business. She's a conservative outsider, not a career politician, who is willing to challenge Washington's wasteful ways to keep our state and country moving in the right direction [...] Kelly Loeffler remains unapologetically supportive of President Trump and his policies to Keep America Great. Already she's delivering conservative results for hardworking families in the Peach State. And that's exactly what she's going to keep doing."
Speaking at the Faith and Freedom Coalition of Georgia's Legislative Luncheon Wednesday, Governor Kemp reaffirmed his support for Loeffler.
"We need somebody fighting for us every single day," said Kemp. "I said, 'you go up there and do that and I will be with you fighting to make sure that we keep you as our U.S. Senator.' And Marty, the girls, and I look forward to being on the campaign trail with her over the next few months."
Communications advisor and political advisor Brian Robinson said Collins's entrance into the race sets up a "battle royale" in November.
"What this does is it changes the dynamics significantly," explained Robinson. "Instead of Kelly Loeffler being able to take on the Democrats and just the Democrats, instead of being able to appeal to the independents and moderates who still make up the margin of victory in Georgia--there's not enough Republicans or Democrats to get to 50--instead of focusing on them, she and Doug Collins are both going to be fighting over the Republican base."
Each candidate, Robinson said, has advantages over the other in the race. Collins has early polling leads, while Loeffler has a lot of money on hand. Her campaign recently announced millions of dollars in ad buys, which have already hit the airwaves. One key endorsement, however, could change things quickly.
"What we're waiting to see is where is Donald Trump going to be in this?" Robinson explained. "Kelly Loeffler has come out as a really strong Trump supporter. She'll have a vote in his impeachment trial. She has attacked his critics in the Senate and every bit of her messaging has been aligned with the president and she was allowed to be one of his co-chairs for his re-elect here in Georgia. So, that was a big move in that relationship. But Doug is one of the president's favorite House members. There's a close personal relationship [...] does the president weigh-in for Doug?"
Georgia Gang Panelist Phil Kent said if the president does chime in, it likely would not be until after the impeachment trial concludes.
"I don't think the president would want to do anything right now because Mitch McConnell and the president need Kelly Loeffler's vote," said Kent.