David Perdue’s race was under the radar. Then he opened his mouth

When Senator David Perdue (R-GA) theatrically mocked the first name of Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris during a rally in front of President Trump and a fiery crowd last week, it was a reminder to a national audience that there was, in fact, another heated US Senate contest in the battlefield state of Georgia.

And this race could be just as intense as the Shakespearean blood feud between Sen. Kelly Loeffler (R-GA) and Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA) – and, at the very least, just as crucial in the battle for broader control of the US Senate next year.

The contest between Perdue, a first-term Republican, and Jon Ossoff, a Democrat who in 2017 ran and lost in the first successful special election of the Trump era, has flown under the radar. But this year’s events have dramatically raised the stakes in the race – in particular, a shifting political terrain at the national and state level that has put real gains in Georgia within reach of Democrats, and a COVID crisis that has sparked scrutiny. ethics on Perdue.

In February, the Cook Political Report assessed the race as a “likely” victory for Perdue. Now he’s seen as a draw, with recent public polls showing Perdue and Ossoff neck and neck and the Democrat outscoring the GOP holder by $ 8 million. Ossoff’s campaign says they’ve raised over $ 2 million on their own since Perdue’s crack about Harris, a taunt they sought to fashion into an anti-Perdue slogan.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has long recognized the risk of this race: his Senate Leadership Fund has so far spent more than $ 32 million on ads attacking Ossoff – representing one in five dollars spent to date, to Senate Leader GOP super PAC.

These trend lines mean that Ossoff’s campaign predicted he could wipe out 50% of the vote on November 3, which would give him an outright victory and slash a runoff under Georgia’s electoral rules.

An internal Ossoff Camp poll, conducted by Garin Hart Yang Research Group October 11-14 and shared with The Daily Beast, found that in a head-to-head race, Ossoff hit the 50% threshold for avoid runoff, with Perdue at 45 percent. When the poll included libertarian candidate Shane Hazel, Ossoff kept a five-point lead over Perdue but shot 48%, which is not enough to avoid a second round.

“Senator Perdue and Donald Trump are maxing out with their support in the state,” Ossoff campaign manager Ellen Foster wrote in a campaign note on Wednesday. “We would expect that if the next two weeks go like the last two weeks, we’ll see Jon with an outright win next month.”

That internal picture is much rosier than where public polls have shown Ossoff – generally tied with Perdue or closely following him, well below 50% support anyway. A New York Times poll released Tuesday found the two were tied at 43 percent. But privately, Republicans believe Perdue is in real danger, either on November 3 or in a January runoff, if the Democrats’ environment continues to improve and Trump does not recover his own numbers. Recent polls have found Democratic candidate Joe Biden tied for or at the helm of Trump in Georgia.

“That says it all that he’s close,” said a GOP strategist, speaking on condition of anonymity to frankly discuss the race. The strategist attributed the narrowness of the race to the harsh environment for the GOP and a fast-paced Georgia – and suggested that a different candidate from Ossoff might have already put Perdue on the sidelines.

But it’s fitting that Senate scrutiny could rest on a race in which the political arcs of the Trump era are so clearly visible. The competition pits a case study of Trump’s full adoption by the GOP against the liberal #Resistance’s first big hope, and each party has been aggressive in presenting their opponent as a nasty, cardboard-cut substitute for the worst of their lives. left. elements.

Perdue, who arrived in Washington in 2014 as a rich tea-molded businessman, has become one of Trump’s most loyal infantrymen in the Senate, enthusiastically supporting him and rallying to his defense even when his colleagues Senate Republicans did not. Last year, Perdue said it was “scandalous” to claim it was racist of Trump to say that four Democratic women of color should be “kicked out” to where they came from. The senator’s blatant dog whistle in mocking Harris’s name last week to Democrats only made that attachment stronger. Perdue’s campaign insisted he only mispronounced the name of a colleague in the Senate with whom he served for nearly four years.

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