Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has the ordinarily enviable opportunity to make someone's political career by appointing them to the Senate when Sen. Johnny Isakson resigns at the end of the year, but like so much else in Republican politics, Donald Trump has managed to make the once-pleasurable suddenly miserable.
Kemp recently squired his preferred pick, wealthy financial services executive Kelly Loeffler, to a secret White House meeting last weekend to secure Trump's blessing, but by all accounts, it went very poorly. According to the Wall Street Journal, the gathering "turned tense and ended quickly" because Trump strongly prefers Rep. Doug Collins, a loudmouth who has aggressively defended Trump throughout the impeachment process and will soon have an even more visible perch to do so as the top-ranking Republican on the House Judiciary Committee.
Trump reportedly even asked Kemp what the purpose of their meeting was if the governor had already made up his mind, though it's not clear that he has. Choosing Loeffler would make a certain amount of sense, though: As a first-time candidate, she doesn't have the same sort of baggage the arch-conservative Collins would bring in next year's special election, and she hails from the fast-growing Atlanta area while Collins represents a rural district in the state's northeast corner.
Loeffler is also fantastically rich: She's a part-owner of the Atlanta Dream, a WNBA team, and her husband, Jeffrey Sprecher, purchased the New York Stock Exchange (yes, he bought the stock exchange itself) for $8.2 billion in 2012. With the Peach State playing host to two competitive Senate elections in 2020, a self-funder could take some pressure off Republican Sen. David Purdue. Given Georgia's leftward political trends, all of this suggests Loeffler would make for a more appealing nominee than Collins (though the fact that she's a woman likely won't help the GOP as much as Republicans would like to believe).
But these considerations, of course, mean little to Trump—though what Trump cares about means a lot to Kemp.
Trump's unexpected intervention in last year's GOP primary for governor was a major factor in Kemp's dominant come-from-behind win in the runoff over the establishment favorite, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, who’d led the voting in the first round. Trump also campaigned for Kemp in central Georgia just before Election Day; whether or not that rally was actually a boon is an open question, but Kemp's indebtedness to Trump is not.
That debt might explain the statement a Kemp spokesperson provided after the WSJ published its article, saying the governor "plans to appoint a strong supporter of the President who will end the impeachment circus and advance conservative policies that Keep America Great." But while that might sound like a nod toward Collins, Loeffler similarly pledged to "stand with President Trump … to Keep America Great" in her application for the soon-to-be-vacant Senate post.
As for when all this drama might finally conclude, no one's sure. Isakson has said he'll step down on Dec. 31, though there's nothing stopping Kemp from acting before then. The WSJ says that Kemp's team "has discussed announcing the decision after Thanksgiving," but the upshot of that discussion we aren't privy to.