With the Georgia Republican Senate primary almost upon us, businessman David Perdue (R) has committed an unforced error. With all polls projecting him advancing to the second round of voting from this Tuesday’s primary, Perdue told a Macon Telegraph editorial board that he would consider increasing revenue as part of the solution to America’s budget problems.
With the five major Republican candidates streaming as far to the right as possible, his statements will be much discussed in the final days of the primary but might not be fully vetted – or absorbed – until the run-off campaign begins.
When asked whether the answer to the budget deficit should be solved by cutting spending or raising revenue, he answered, “both”. According to the Daily Kos Elections blog, Perdue then said, “… here’s the reality: If you go into a business – and I keep coming back to my background, it’s how I know how to relate is to refer back to it – I was never able to turn around a company just by cutting spending. You had to figure out a way to get revenue growing. And what I just said, there are five people in the U.S. Senate who understand what I just said. You know revenue is not something they think about.”
It’s quite an under-statement and a poor generalization for Perdue to say that only five senators understand the simplicity of what he is saying. But, irrespective of his impression about the current Senate, will his professed willingness to raise taxes prevent him from joining the body, considering that he uttered the comments before securing the Republican nomination?
It may be too late to affect the primary outcome. Former Secretary of State Karen Handel (R) is the first to call Perdue on the carpet for wanting to raise taxes, but she has little money to communicate the message to a statewide Republican primary base electorate. Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA-1) has the funding, but his media campaign has been underway for weeks and it is questionable whether he would change his course of attack against Perdue. He has released a general response ad to some of Perdue’s campaign themes about Washington but, as we have seen in many elections, it is risky for one candidate to attack another in a crowded field. Often times when two participants begin to fire away as if it were a one-on-one campaign, a third comes from the outside to steal the nomination.
The other two candidates, representatives Paul Broun (R-GA-10) and Phil Gingrey (R-GA-11) either don’t have enough money to go statewide with an attack, or have their own strategy set. Broun will undoubtedly use Perdue’s statements to communicate through his Tea Party grassroots network, but these two congressmen, like Kingston, have to be careful about targeting an attack too precisely against only one opponent. Considering both Broun and Gingrey lag a bit behind Kingston and Handel, and are even further back of Perdue, they are going to need flawless execution of a corrected strategy if either are to carry through to first or second place on Tuesday night.
The Georgia Republican Senate primary has been one of the more captivating races of this early nomination cycle and Perdue’s potential misstep guarantees that the dead heat atmosphere will continue through the last days of the campaign. There is no question that Perdue’s interview comments were a mistake when he is asking for support before a Georgia Republican electorate, but it is yet unclear whether he has killed his campaign. Early prognostications suggest he still qualifies for the run-off, but expect his views on taxes and spending to be a front-and-center attack point in the Republican run-off when the race winnows down to only two participants.
And, don’t be surprised if consensus Democratic candidate Michelle Nunn, awaiting her official nomination on Tuesday night, begins to use these tax-raising comments against Perdue should he become her opponent in the fall. This may be the opportunity to position herself to his right on a key issue, thus helping her change the general election dynamic.