After deflecting the slings and arrows thrown against him during the final weeks of an acrimonious primary runoff campaign, businessman David Perdue narrowly emerged Tuesday over U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston as the Georgia Republican Party’s U.S. Senate nominee. He now prepares to challenge Democrat Michelle Nunn in the November general election. As this is written and most results are tallied, Perdue eked out a 51 to 49 percent win over Kingston.
Kingston’s coastal congressional district, which propelled him to a second-place slot on May 20 when he racked up about 75 percent of the vote there, didn’t come through with enough votes this time. Perdue carried vote-rich metro Atlanta counties nine weeks ago which put him in first place. This time around he maintained and expanded his strength there— thus pushing him over the finish line. In north Georgia, the one-time CEO’s “outsider” image in TV ads was also appealing to enough Tea Party elements, evangelical Christians and seniors to garner extra votes.
Bottom line: Most political observers believe the Perdue ground game and voter turnout effort was better organized.
Perdue sounded all the right notes in his victory speech. He tied his Democrat opponent to President Barack Obama’s “failed agenda,” commended Kingston and urged GOP unity. The always-gracious Kingston, in his concession speech, pledged vigorous support for Perdue.
The good news for conservative Kingston supporters, by the way, is that the congressman’s principled positions against tax hikes, opposition to amnesty for illegal aliens and criticism of the Common Core educational standards helped push Perdue to the right during the campaign. Conservatives should be comfortable that Perdue came to embrace basic conservative positions, even though he never participated in Georgia GOP politics and had never run for public office.
Today, Perdue will be meeting with the Republican National Senatorial Committee to strategize about his fall campaign. Also, a far-sighted Georgia GOP political action committee will assist Perdue in immediately replenishing his depleted campaign coffers. Over $2 million should be pumped in courtesy of fund-raising by U.S. Sen Johnny Isakson and a clique of wealthy Georgians who saw the need to raise early money for whoever emerged as the party’s nominee.
Democrat Nunn has raised $9 million and Perdue notes she will be a “fiercely competitive” candidate. However, her fundraising is a double-edged sword. Obama’s approval rating is hovering at a dismal 41 percent in Georgia and Obamacare continues to be unpopular with a lot of independents and Democrats, let alone Republicans. That will hurt Nunn, since one of the few stands she has taken is to support Obamacare. Nunn also will have to defend controversial donations ranging from the radical feminist Emily’s List and Michael Bloomberg’s pro-gun control political action committee to Obama’s political action committee and leftist Jane Fonda.
It is also startling for Republicans, at this point in time, that recent polling reveals both their Senate and governor candidates trailing their Democrat opponents. Republicans have work to do as both Perdue and Gov. Nathan Deal, up for re-election, acknowledged this week.
Elections are won by the side that does the better job of getting the vote out, so Perdue must forge a strong center-right coalition in order to retain the Senate seat vacated by Saxby Chambliss. The good news for him is that conservatives who supported Kingston don’t want Georgia’s seat to fall to a Democrat who votes in lockstep with Democrat Leader Harry Reid. They will fall into line with Perdue.
In the end, though, independent voters will ultimately decide who wins the Senate and gubernatorial races in November.
Some final thoughts: Perdue does well on television; Nunn not so well. Perdue learned to press the flesh with voters. Democrat friends of Nunn say that, surprisingly, she seems shy when prodded by staff to talk to voters. The media
has complained that Nunn doesn’t keep them well informed of her travel and events. Perdue and his sharp staff did a good job in that regard. Finally, a lot of voters know where Perdue stands on key issues. Except for her support for Obama, Nunn is undefined. That spells an opportunity for Perdue, and especially his TV ad consultants, to define her—just as he, in the end, negatively defined Jack Kingston.