Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), a frequent presence in Fox News’ green rooms in recent years, said Wednesday that he will challenge incumbent Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler in a November special election.
Collins launched his bid on Fox & Friends, the Fox News morning show beloved by President Donald Trump, speaking to an audience of one by stressing his interest in “defending this president” in the Senate.
The program was an appropriate venue for Collins’ announcement.
Collins, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, has used Fox’s platform to become one of the president’s leading defenders against special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe and his impeachment in the U.S. House.
The Georgia Republican has made at least 128 appearances on Fox’s weekday programming since August 1, 2017 -- 89 of them coming in the last 12 months.
Those appearances have drawn support for Collins’ candidacy from Fox stalwarts like Sean Hannity. “By the way, I saw a recent poll out of the great state of Georgia,” he said while interviewing the congressman on his January 14 show. “It looks like I was right and the governor was wrong, because you are winning by four, five, six to one. Congressman, good to see you. Soon to be senator, just a guess.”
By contrast, Loeffler, a wealthy former finance executive who was sworn in earlier this month after Sen. Johnny Isakson retired for health reasons, has yet to appear on the network.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp appointed Loeffler to fill the seat even though Trump wanted the position to go to Collins, a preference that likely resulted from Collins’ recurring status on his television set.
Because Trump watches so much Fox programming, regular appearances on the network give politicians the opportunity to speak to him directly and gain his support.
Collins likely hopes to join several of his House colleagues who have used this strategy to catapult themselves into more powerful positions.
Collins’ move drew a swift backlash from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, which issued a statement calling the “shortsightedness” of Collin's decision “stunning” and warning that it has put “two senate seats, multiple house seats, and Georgia’s 16 electoral votes in play.”
If that comes to pass, the NRSC can blame Fox.
Update (1/30/20): Two Fox News prime-time hosts gave Collins a lift on the first day of his Senate campaign.
Hannity explicitly endorsed Collins on his nationally broadcast radio show Wednesday afternoon. “I’m supporting Doug Collins in that race,” he said, adding that he had encouraged Kemp to appoint him to the seat in the first place but “nobody ever listens to me.” “I have nothing against this woman,” he added, referring to Loeffler, “but she has no experience and Doug Collins does, and he’s built up trust with me, and I think he’ll do well in that primary.”
Guest John McLaughlin, a pollster for both Trump and Collins, responded by praising the congressman’s background and his loyalty to the president.
And Laura Ingraham hosted Collins on her Fox show, discussing the impeachment trial and then plugging his campaign. After reading the NRSC’s warning that Collins’ run could adversely impact the party’s prospects in other races across Georgia, she added, “You apparently are spreading the coronavirus as well.” Collins responded in part by stressing his intention to promote “conservative values like defending this president.”