David Perdue Sees Heat Of Spotlight

This week’s Courier Herald column:

If it seems like the campaign for US Senate has been going on forever, that’s because it has.  It’s been almost 15 months since Senator Saxby Chambliss announced he would not run for re-election.  That’s roughly 450 24 hour news cycles.  Forgive a lot of the insiders if they’re already over it, or have their opinions about where the race is heading locked in.  The campaign, for many, is old news.

In reality, the campaign has just begun.  Voters will likely narrow down the field of seven to two in only six more weeks.  For the campaigns themselves, it is now “go time”.

Two of the three candidates who are in the $2 Million raised club are already on TV.  Jack Kingston has made his old Buick station wagon a star, using it to introduce him to voters across the state who may have heard of him, but know little about the person or record of the ten term Congressman from Savannah.  Kingston is using his money to buy himself name ID, and the polls which have shown a virtual five way tie for a year have nudged a bit in his direction.

“Outsider” David Perdue is also spending heavily on TV.  Despite that most Georgia voters wouldn’t normally be able to name a former CEO of Dollar General he began the campaign with exceptionally high name ID. Credit his cousin, a former Governor with the same name, for providing a bit of an assist there.

Perdue’s commercials assert that he is the adult in the race by featuring the other major candidates as crying babies.  Nothing says “I’m the adult here” like name calling.  Three recent publicly released polls seem to indicate the commercial is resonating, as he is now being referred to as the front runner.

Being a front runner is a mixed blessing.  Just ask Governor John Oxendine.  He carried a strong lead in the polls throughout the 2010 Governor’s race.  He led until the campaigns actually started to do the real campaign part.  He went from first to fourth in a roughly two month span, missing the runoff.

Like Oxendine, Perdue is finding that one can’t merely operate on offense once the front runner.  With front runner status comes extra scrutiny.  All those candidates he sees as crying babies see him in one of the two open slots they need to be in on the morning of May 21st.  Anyone Republican holding back negative information will be working overtime to make sure it is out there over the next couple of weeks.

We’ve already seen a preview. Last week a video surfaced of Perdue speaking to a Macon GOP meeting with him dismissively saying “I mean there’s a high school graduate in this race, OK? I’m sorry but these issues are so much broader… so complex. There’s only one candidate in this race that’s ever lived outside the United States.”

The issue not only drew quick backlash from Karen Handel, the high school graduate who left an abusive home at age 17 and completed some college before a she had to choose a career opportunity over finishing her degree, but from Handel’s biggest name endorser Sarah Palin.  The former Governor and VP nominee made an Atlanta area appearance denouncing the statement as a “sad day” for Republicans.  Congressman Lynn Westmoreland, also a former businessman without a college degree (who presumably has been handling these broad and complex issues during his five terms) called Perdue’s comments “stupid”.

The gaffe by Perdue also created for his opponents an opportunity to position him not as the outsider he is claiming to be, but an outsider that is outside the lifestyle of the average Georgian. He doesn’t just live in the gated community of Sea Island, but he lives in the Ocean Forest development.  That’s a gated community INSIDE the gated community of Sea Island.

He does like to quail hunt, but not necessarily in South Georgia.  Word of an online review Perdue left for a quail hunting resort in Argentina that praised the wine and the after-hunt massages was published last week by the AJC’s Jim Galloway.

There’s an assumption that most Georgians who hunt quail don’t associate wine or massages with their hunt, not pay thousands per night for their lodging. The battle is clearly on to position Perdue as an elitist.

This, frankly, brings us to one of the most important points of a contested primary.  It is a system that, when it works, is supposed to vet the candidates in order to produce the best nominee for the party.

The other four primary candidates have lengthy records in public life.  Perdue’s background is still largely unknown to the general public.  It has not had the public scrutiny that it will clearly face over the next six weeks, and possibly 9 more before he would be the nominee.

Democrats, presumably ready to nominate Michelle Nunn, are ready and building a war chest and helping position her for a tough November fight.  Republicans have been focused on the potential “Todd Aken” problem they may have by choosing the wrong nominee.  And that is a very valid concern.

These concerns have primarily been directed at those who have made public gaffes about Science and rape.  These concerns also need to be allayed before nominating a candidate whose only public record thus far is what he wants us to know about him.


  1. Mrs. Adam Kornstein says:

    Bit of a double edged sword.. he’s a “outsider” running in a fiercely anti “insider” climate. I guess his opponents will be doing back flips to point out the numbers of failed CEO’s in politics.

  2. South Fulton Guy says:

    From John G. Garst of Rosetta Stone Communications

    “So – according to David Perdue, I would be better off going to one of these schools and drowning in debt for the rest of my life than starting a business and career. Ironic for a candidate who is running on wasteful spending and debt reduction.”


    • saltycracker says:

      Is Perdue promoting Fed easy money debt for college or did you just non sequitur that link in (btw, I agree with its message) ?

  3. saltycracker says:

    Perdue’s dumb selection of a shot a Handel pales in comparison to gaffes on science and rape.
    Cheap shots on his Tech graduation, successful business career, gated home and gentrified hunting are positives when compared to career politicians building wealth through lobbyists and lawmaking for the influential.

    An analogy, not a comparison is George Washington, wealthy by inheritance and marriage, of a privileged class, holder of tobacco plantations, slave owner and lived in a named estate. He rejected a power grab and acted in the best interests of all including term limits.

    Do we want a Senator that promises to clear the path for equal opportunity or a melodramatic one that promises to get us stuff ?

    The educated and the good old boys/gals would serve us by getting back to serious issues like tax reform, financial reform, limiting debt, foreign aid, public health care, fraud and abuse in our public safety nets…….
    But we are not going to let that happen….

    • Raleigh says:

      Just curious but when did a getting a degree from the North Avenue Trade School qualify as “Ivy League”.

      As far as the Hunting trip my question is did he pay for it himself or was it provided by lobbyist like an infamous Thanksgiving junket to Germany?

      Inquiring minds……….

  4. South Fulton Guy says:

    From Jim Galloway’s AJC Political Insider BLOG:

    Former state GOP chair Sue Everhart has put her name to a Karen Handel fundraising email this morning that focuses on David Perdue’s highlighting of his rival’s lack of formal education. It includes these lines:

    When David Perdue called Karen Handel the “high school graduate,” he demeaned every Georgian who did not have the opportunity to go to college and showed just how out-of-touch he is with the people and values of our great state….

    Like no other candidate in this race, Karen understands the needs of hardworking Georgians. She has walked in our shoes. She knows what it’s like to make your way in the world with the odds stacked against you. She knows that determination, hard work, and commonsense are the real keys to success – not a life of privilege.

    • saltycracker says:

      Maybe Karen understands the needs of a career politician to cater to the lobbyists and benefactors while saying what is needed to get elected. Might be harder to obligate a self-made wealthy person. But all these personality side bars keep us from the real issues and that works for those trying to gain power and/or wealth in public service.

  5. southernpol says:

    Seriously? Ugh

    Just an FYI for those not familiar with dove hunting — Cordoba, Argentina is THE mecca of dove hunting. I know several people who have been who are not the wealthiest people in the world. And not every place is “thousands a night”.

    For anyone familiar with it, this is a poor attempt at a hit from Handel. Almost as bad as, dare I say, a knock on her education.

    I was beginning to really defend her, too.

  6. Ghost of William F. Buckley says:

    So exactly what did Ms. Handel tell all those swells in North Fulton’s ‘Fingerbowl’ District to have them put her sign in their manicured yards, last cycle? Calling Mr. Perdue an ‘elitist’ for making a true statement, when Ms. Handels’ signs graced some of the loveliest lawns in the wealthiest Southern neighborhoods, is like calling Michelle Nunn a dyed-in-the-wool fiscal conservative.

    It’s Garstonian!

    Surely the education crack must have hit a nerve as Ms. Handel’s supporters are milking this remark to its’ fullest. Gaffe or gambit, it simply is STILL not that important, as it was not that important last cycle. That’s disingenuous and people see right through it, Charles, et. al.

    I could care less about either candidate, frankly. I don’t like what I see when we vote in business leaders to government. We need leaders who understand how our political system works; it is folly to believe any outsider is going to effective, credible in the US Senate field of play. No time for amateurs.

    This utterly absurd non-issue won’t be any louder than a mouse fart in a cheese factory, come November.

    But do go on, it keeps everyone away from discussing anything that is actually meaningful, as many others have pointed out.

  7. Ghost of William F. Buckley says:

    “The wisest choice would be the one who would win. No sense running Mona Lisa in a beauty contest. I’d be for the most right, viable candidate who could win. If you could convince me that Barry Goldwater could win, I’d vote for him.” – Wm. F. Buckley, Jr.

  8. John Sanders says:

    glad someone caught on that Perdue doesn’t live in a gated community. He lives in the gated community INSIDE the gated community.

  9. John Sanders says:

    but i don’t hate because he’s been successful. I’ll decide based off where he stands on the issues because isn’t that what matters at the end of the day?!?!

  10. Will Durant says:

    Well given the current ethical climate at least an argument could be made that it is harder to buy off a guy who has already made his nut.

  11. radix023 says:

    This is David Perdue’s second gaffe. His first was not recognizing fundamental rights on college campuses. David Perdue is not a conservative, and running on his cousin’s (formerly Democrat) statewide network makes his “outsider” status hard to swallow.

  12. Jon Lester says:

    Georgia Democrats don’t have any business harping on Perdue’s attitude, because if they cared about qualifications, they wouldn’t be suppressing word of Dr. Rad’s candidacy for the Senate.

  13. ARAR says:

    are we forgetting that the college grads, the educated men and women are the cause of the country’s debt, the ever increasing spending? we call these educated college folks Senators and Members of Congress. that is why we need Karen Handel there not another college degree making it worst.

  14. Three Jack says:

    One wonders what Perdue would say of this man – “James Luther (J.L.) Turner’s father died in an accident in 1902 when J.L. was only 11. J.L. had to quit school so he could work the family farm and help provide for his mother and siblings. He never completed his education. J.L. knew his limited education demanded that he become a quick study of the world around him. After two unsuccessful attempts at retailing, J.L. became a traveling dry goods salesman for a Nashville wholesale grocer. J.L. left the sales job after 10 years and settled his family in Scottsville, Kentucky. During the Depression, he began buying and liquidating bankrupt general stores. J.L.’s only child, Cal Turner, Sr., accompanied his father to these closeouts at a young age, gaining valuable business knowledge and skills.”

    Founder of Dollar General, JL Turner.

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