Loeffler charts path to the right in Georgia Senate race

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Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., listens to Republican congressional candidate Marjorie Taylor Greene speak during a news conference on Thursday, Oct. 15, 2020, in Dallas, Ga. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

ATLANTA – Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler stepped out of a Humvee on a foggy morning in northwest Georgia wearing an American flag trucker hat to accept the endorsement of a congressional candidate who has expressed support for baseless QAnon conspiracy theories and made disparaging comments about Black people, Muslims and Jews.

Loeffler smiled and nodded as Marjorie Taylor Greene praised her as “the most conservative Republican" running in Georgia's multi-candidate special election for the U.S. Senate seat Loeffler was appointed to 10 months ago.

“What impressed me with Kelly is I found out that she believes a lot of the same things that I believe,” Greene said at the Oct. 15 event.

Loeffler was appointed to the Senate on the hope that she would help the GOP hold on to moderates — especially suburban women — uncomfortable with the party’s right turn under President Donald Trump. Instead, the wealthy businesswoman has followed Trump’s lead and then some, embracing people like Greene, a political figure even many conservatives consider too extreme.

Her choice has many Republicans worried about how she'd fare in an anticipated January runoff election in a state where Republican dominance is slipping and victory could depend on more moderate voters and independents.

Loeffler spokeswoman Caitlin O’Dea said Loeffler was not available to be interviewed for this story and declined to answer questions.

In her quest to win a spot in the runoff, Loeffler has been locked in a brutal battle for the conservative base of the Republican Party with GOP Rep. Doug Collins, a four-term congressman and one of Trump’s most visible defenders in the U.S. House. Meanwhile, Democratic challenger Raphael Warnock, pastor of the Atlanta church where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. preached, has been able to consolidate support among Democrats with relative ease.

A Jan. 5, 2021 runoff between the race’s top two candidates — likely Warnock and either Loeffler or Collins — will be required if nobody wins more than 50% in November.