A man who was an afterthought for the Republicans a year ago might be the one candidate that prevents the Democrats from maintaining their majority. But he could cost himself the non-college crowd in the upcoming primary with callous comments about a rival GOP candidate.
Nearly a year ago, when candidates were starting to put their names in the hat for the open U.S. Senate seat from Georgia, David Perdue was hardly noticed. He only had the support of one percent of those surveyed in a Landmark/Rosetta Stone poll. Now, 10 months later, he has the support of 21 percent in another Landmark/Rosetta Stone poll, good enough for a six point lead over his rivals.
What happened? Some of it has to do with self-inflicted wounds from rivals. U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey was the front-runner in those early polls, even sporting a six point lead of his own in a PPP poll, with 25%. But his decision to speak out in favor of Rep. Todd Akin’s politically incorrect comments on rape, trying to provide medical backing for those, led many to fear that Gingrey would be another Akin, a Missouri congressman solely credited with helping beleaguered Democratic incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill prevail two years ago.
Fears of having another Rep. Akin or Richard Mourdock (the Indiana State Treasurer who displaced respected Republican Richard Lugar, only to hand the winnable contest to Democratic Rep. Joe Donnelly in 2012) haunted this race. Gingrey, an otherwise sane and sensible politician, saw his support evaporate. Rep. Paul Broun, better known for incendiary conservative comments, similarly saw his support dwindle from by nearly in half from that PPP poll last year to a Survey USA analysis from mid-March.
Other candidates have experienced similar ebbs and flows, without ever taking a lead. These include former Secretary of State Karen Handel, best known for an abortion battle with the Susan G. Komen foundation, and Rep. Jack Kingston, a longtime congressman from East Georgia who has sought to appeal to voters with his steadfast opposition to President Barack Obama.
Perdue may find himself the latest leading candidate to fall. He already took an unnecessary swipe at Karen Handel’s lack of a college degree. Given his party’s increasing reliance on voters without a college degree, those words could haunt him, especially with those who lump college graduates with elite snobs, comments similar to those made by conservative presidential candidate Rick Santorum. Already, Handel has picked up an endorsement from ex-Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Similar backing from Palin propelled Handel to front-runner status in the open GOP Gubernatorial primary in 2010; she only lost the runoff to Rep. Nathan Deal (the eventual overall winner) by the narrowest of margins.
Lack of funds by Handel and Broun, along with prior stumbles by Rep. Gingrey mean that monetary leader Kingston is most likely poised to be the next front-runner. He’s unlikely to win more than 50 percent, leading to a long bruising runoff with one of the aforementioned candidates.
The overall winner could be Democratic Senate hopefully Michelle Nunn, daughter of respected Senator Sam Nunn. Currently, she’s narrowly trailing most of the GOP candidates. Given the conservative leanings of the state, that’s an impressive showing. In a race that’s too close to call, anything can happen, as Republicans have found to their detriment in recent years.