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Kelly Loeffler: Republican senator trailing in new poll after coronavirus stocks sell-off

The Georgia congressman mounting an internal GOP challenge to Senator Kelly Loeffler led her in a recent internal campaign poll conducted in the week following reports Ms Loeffler off-loaded millions of dollars in stocks after receiving a senators-only briefing about the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year.

Congressman Doug Collins, the former top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee that drafted the impeachment articles against Donald Trump last year to Mr Collins' shagrin, led Ms Loeffler 36 per cent to 13 per cent in Georgia's all-party special election, the poll found, with Democrats' favoured candidate, pastor and civil rights activist Raphael Warnock, collecting 16 per cent. Politico first reported the polling memo.

The poll, commissioned by the Collins campaign, was conducted by Battleground Connect, a GOP grassroots outreach firm. Internal polls — especially ones that are leaked to the press — tend to favour the candidates who commissioned them.

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Among likely voters who identify as Republicans, Mr Collins led Ms Loeffler 70 per cent to 20 per cent, the poll found.

And Mr Collins led Mr Warnock in a head-to-head polling by 13 points, 49 per cent to 36 per cent, while Ms Loeffler trailed Mr Warnock by 1 point, 40-41 per cent.

Spokespersons for both campaigns could immediately be reached for comment for this story.

Ms Loeffler has denied accusations that she engaged in insider trading after it was reported last week she has sold more than $20m in stock since being briefed behind closed doors on the coronavirus crisis on 24 January.

Most of the shed stocks — $18.7m worth — were stocks in Intercontinental Exchange, a trading group that owns the New York Stock Exchange where Ms Loeffler's husband is CEO. Ms Loeffler and her husband's financial advisers sold off that stock as part of a pre-planned transaction after they initially bought the stocks at a lower price, a normal process by which many top executives at Fortune 500 companies are compensated.

“Selling this stock is a normal practice for them and other executives," an aide to the senator told The Independent last week.

While Ms Loeffler's support among Republicans in Georgia could be flagging, she still has backing from perhaps the most influential person in GOP campaigns this cycle: Mr Trump, who endorsed her over Mr Collins earlier this year.

The president has defended Ms Loeffler and at least three other senators who have sold off considerable amounts of stock in recent weeks, saying they are "honourable."

Battleground Connect collected data from 1,035 "likely voters" via live interviews on landlines and cell phones from 31 March through 1 April , according to the polling memo, which calculated the margin of error for the full sample at +/- 3.01 per cent.

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