The Senate Candidate To Beat

In the comment thread after my overview of the U.S. Senate runoff in Georgia today, there was some talk about an issue I hadn’t addressed: which GOP candidate would Democrats prefer that Michelle Nunn face in November?

I’m pretty sure the official answer would be “It doesn’t matter,” and there’s some logic to that position. Against Kingston, Nunn is the “outsider” competing with an eleven-term congressional incumbent in a year when Congress is held in very low esteem. And against Perdue, every weapon used against Mitt Romney would be available, but with Nunn comparing her nonprofit experience with the Republican’s money-grubbing and worker-screwing. The polls haven’t shown a big difference; in the RCP averages, Nunn is even with Perdue and two points ahead of Kingston.

Long-time Georgia political observer Bill Crane (saw him on TV the other day, and he’s aged well from the time I knew him back in the day) is sure Kingston’s the preferred Nunn opponent:

I think Michelle Nunn would prefer to run against Jack Kingston. Twenty-two year incumbent, PAC money, special interest, her preferred race is the race that I think she’s going to get.

But I dunno. Perdue’s shown a tendency to commit gaffes. He gave a huge opening to Karen Handel in the primary by mocking her lack of higher education in casual remarks that were taped and later released. And in a newspaper interview later on, he mentioned “revenues” as part of the federal budget picture without ritualistically swearing he’s die before ever accepting a tax increase, which was turned by his opponents into a dishonest but effective assertion that he’d called for a tax increase. Maybe the GOP would surround Perdue with gaffe-proofers if he won tonight, or insist he limit his entire campaign to the kind of soft-focus saturation ads that made him a contender to begin with.

But I agree with Crane that Kingston’s the likely winner tonight. However Michelle Nunn feels about it, Perdue’s children, who have been watching him spend their inheritence this year, will be very happy.

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.