As you know if you were paying attention to political news last night, David Perdue very narrowly defeated Rep. Jack Kingston in GA’s Republican Senate runoff after a nasty “who’s more conservative?” campaign ended with a low turnout event. Turnout patterns ultimately decided it, with Kingston unable to capture enough of the vote won in the primary by the defeated candidates (two of which, Karen Handel and Phil Gingrey, endorsed and campaigned with him) in the areas outside his South Georgia base. Perdue also improved his standing in middle and southwest Georgia (he did more advertising outside Atlanta than Kingston in the runoff), while winning the big metro Atlanta counties by an average of about ten points.
Beyond that mechanical explanation, it may simply be the candidates wore out the voters, with those showing up reverting to their primary preferences. That’s what the turnout–which didn’t quite reach double-digit percentages of the electorate–would suggest. The nine week runoff experiment was clearly a big mistake, leaving the winner exhausted and out of money (though in Perdue’s case we have to assume he’s not quite to the bottom of his personal cookie jar).
As for ideology, well, the constant attacks on each other by all the candidates, going back to the beginning of the cycle, for allegedly insufficient conservatism may have gotten a little old as well. But the dynamic did leave Perdue, generally figured to breathe less fire than most of his rivals, not terribly well positioned for a competitive general election campaign. He’s said he’d dump Mitch McConnell as Senate Leader for insufficient conservatism; he’s taken the wild-man position of demanding government shutdowns if the debt limit is breached; he’s attacked any sort of immigration reform legislation; and he’s publicly flirted with impeachment. That’s just the stuff that got attention; Lord knows what he told activists in smaller meetings where they were demanding he come out against the New Deal as Satan’s work. Given Perdue’s tendency towards gaffes when unsupervised (e.g., his dismissal of Karen Handel as a “high school graduate” and the near-disastrous newspaper interview when he forget to rule out tax increases until the end of time), oppo research could turn up some real gems.
But I doubt he’ll have too much trouble getting other Republicans on board. Yes, Karen Handel is probably still mad at him, and it will be fun to watch the U.S. Chamber get behind the candidate whose most effective late ad (and the one that might have made a crucial difference) was attacking the Chamber itself for “buying” Kingston’s vote for “amnesty.” It’s probably David Perdue’s race to lose, and he could be just the guy to do it.