A few weeks ago, Republican Senate candidate David Perdue had a Senate win within his reach with no runoff. Now, it seems the best he can hope for is an overtime victory. Reporters nationally, since the 1970’s, have warned of a demographic tide building, making it more difficult for Republicans to win. Pollsters, statisticians, and others claim that is happening now in Georgia. That is not actually true, despite how much so many invested in the “demographics as destiny” meme want it to be so.
Demographics may hand Georgia back to the Democrats within the decade, but David Perdue’s slipping poll numbers have more to do with other easily understood factors.
Chief among those factors is money. The Perdue camp had this race, probably without a runoff, just a few weeks ago. But starting about five weeks ago, Michelle Nunn upped her ad spending in the metro Atlanta area attacking David Perdue. His campaign did not respond in kind. Nunn’s attacks focused on the populist “outsourcing” issue and David Perdue’s role in outsourcing American jobs overseas.
The Perdue campaign did not respond effectively and his lead began to crumble. But there is more to it than that.
Since the spring, I have said Perdue’s greatest liability was a personal and campaign arrogance. Running as an outsider, Perdue could harness former Governor Sonny Perdue’s network of funders, campaign staff, and activists to win. But Perdue’s team, running as an outsider, has behaved as if it is running even outside the party apparatus.
In numerous conversations in the last twenty-four hours, I have heard the same tale repeated in various forms. People who opposed Perdue in the primary, reached out after it was over to pledge support, then never heard back. They assumed Perdue’s team had it all taken care of. Several prominent party figures lamented Perdue never reached out to them.
The prevailing wisdom is that Perdue is going to win in a runoff. But the grousing over his campaign’s failure to adequately respond to Nunn in the final five weeks built on the idea that his campaign has run itself largely outside the party with a “we can handle this” attitude. And they made a mistake they’ll now have to spend November, December, and part of January paying for.
There is one other issue worth noting. Most of the Democrats I spoke to are not fully invested in Michelle Nunn’s race. They had pinned their hopes on Jason Carter having an easier go of it. There is a passion for Jason Carter that Democrats do not have for Nunn. But Carter’s chances to take the Governor’s Mansion in Georgia look to be slipping away. Democrats in Georgia, hungry for a statewide win, have pivoted their focus to Michelle Nunn. Formerly lukewarm support has solidified.
David Perdue is still going to win. But that win is going to happen in overtime. Demographics may one day take it all away from the Georgia GOP, but this year is not that year. This year it will be money and unhealed wounds. Touring the state, two weeks from the election, David Perdue and the Georgia GOP are still singing from the “unite the party” hymnal and they’re bringing in Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) to preach the sermon.