By Jim Ellis
May 6, 2020 — As we have seen since the COVID-19 quarantines began, appointed Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R) has been reeling politically. Her backslide began after news stories showed that she and her husband, New York Stock Exchange chairman Jeffrey Sprecher, made stock transactions of at least $18 million to better position themselves after receiving early Senate briefings about the potential coronavirus effects. She has now launched a $4 million response media buy.
Her ads, however, yield a rather unusual approach. While not mentioning the core attack against her, which is that she took personal financial action in response to receiving alarming policy briefings, the ad script indirectly underscores her extraordinary wealth. This may prove an ill-advised self-defense approach and it is difficult to see how the ad message begins to reverse a negative tide. (See ad at top.)
The Loeffler campaign media buy is divided among three similar television and digital ads, but they all emphasize that Sen. Loeffler is being attacked by liberals, that she has donated $1 million of her own money to COVID-19 hospital operations and is forfeiting her Senate salary for the benefit of coronavirus victims. In two of the ads, the narrator explains that the senator sent her private jet to bring back stranded individuals in foreign countries after quarantine bans were implemented.
Recent polling has projected Sen. Loeffler as being buried within the middle of a field of five significant candidates. In the latest poll, from the Cygnal research group taken during the April 25-27 period, Rep. Doug Collins (R-Gainesville) holds a 29-12 percent lead over Atlanta businessman Matt Lieberman (D), the son of former Connecticut senator and 2000 vice presidential nominee Joe Lieberman. In third place with 10.6 percent preference is Rev. Raphael Warnock, who pastors Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his father once presided. Sen. Loeffler then follows, virtually tying Rev. Warnock at 10.5 percent. Former US Attorney Ed Tarver trails the group with 4 percent.
This data largely confirmed the immediate previous poll from Battleground Connect (March 31-April 1) that found Rep. Collins leading Rev. Warnock 36-16 percent, with Sen. Loeffler at 13 percent, Lieberman polling 11 percent, and Tarver posting only 3 percent support.
Obviously, Sen. Loeffler is in trouble and appears to be faring poorly in the early going even in the jungle primary format, a set-up that Gov. Brian Kemp (R), when appointing her to replace resigned Sen. Johnny Isakson (R), chose to give her an advantage.
Early partisan polling found Rep. Collins dominating an appointed Republican senator in a GOP primary; therefore, the best option to help the interim office holder was scheduling the special election as a jungle primary concurrently with the Nov. 3 general election with a runoff on Jan. 5, 2021 if no candidate garners a majority vote.
The ad theme attempts to identify Sen. Loeffler as a conservative under attack by liberals because of her policy stances, and then goes on to describe her as a responsive senator because of her significant donations.
First of all, she is not under attack from liberals. The stock transaction stories are news items and exist because of the actions she and her husband took. Progressive left groups are not attacking her because they understand it would be to their benefit to face her in a special election runoff rather than Rep. Collins, who is demonstrating strength with the conservative base voter.
It is difficult to see how this media effort is going to increase Sen. Loeffler’s position within the conservative and even centrist electorate, something she will need to do since the Democratic candidates will all split the left-of-center vote, a group that the Senator is conceding as she emphasizes running as a conservative.
The median household income in Georgia according to the US Census figures is $55,679, with an individual per capita income of $29,523. Therefore, it is difficult to see how these ads that emphasize her wealth appeal to the very base voter that she needs to convert in order to qualify for a runoff position.
Sen. Loeffler’s latest response media blitz badly misses the mark and does not speak to her targeted universe. It is unlikely this expenditure will provide her the momentum she needs to begin reversing her polling slide and thus improving her position opposite a credible field of opponents.