Game-Changer In Georgia?

In the endless argument between political scientists and “traditional” political people about how elections are decided, I’m with the Poli Sci crowd more often than not, and don’t much believe individual “moments” in campaigns usually matter all that much. But there are obviously exceptions; nobody really thinks Todd Akin was done in by “fundamentals” in 2012.

And so, I suggested a while ago that there are two Senate candidates this year who strike me as especially capable of delivering the kind of gaffe that could blow up a campaign: Joni Ernst of Iowa and David Perdue of Georgia. Turns out Ernst’s problem is less what she is saying now (which is very little other than “farmer! farmer!”) than the crazy stuff she’s said in the recent past And that’s partially true for Perdue as well, insofar as his latest problem emerged from something Politico (operating on a tip?) found in a 2005 deposition wherein he allowed as how he’d spent most of his career “outsourcing.”

But then redeeming my faith in him as a gaffe-master, Perdue compounded the error by saying in the present tense that he was “proud” of his involvement in outsourcing, and Michelle Nunn’s campaign has not wasted a moment in exploiting the comment.

So will it matter? According to The Hill‘s Cameron Joseph, it just might:

Senate Democrats are feeling increasingly upbeat about former charity executive Michelle Nunn’s chances in Georgia after a rough week for businessman David Perdue (R).

The GOP nominee is facing heat over revelations that he said in a 2005 legal deposition he had “spent most of my career” focused on outsourcing, and didn’t help himself by responding that he was “proud” of that record.

The open-seat Senate race has flown under the national radar in recent months, as most strategists assumed Perdue had the upper hand. But Democrats view the comments as a game-changer — and Republicans concede that their nominee has had a problematic stretch.

“The race has tightened,” admitted Georgia Republican strategist Joel McElhannnon. “Dave has taken a few hits here over the last week or two from a very well-coordinated, aggressive campaign.”

Perdue held a lead in most public polls since he won his late July runoff. But two new recent surveys indicate it’s closer than expected. The Republican leads by one point in an automated SurveyUSA poll released Wednesday and by two in a survey from the Democratic Public Policy Polling on Tuesday, results that match recent private polling.

That drop comes before voters even see millions of dollars in ads hitting Perdue for the outsourcing comments.

There’s still plenty of time left in the campaign, and then there’s the strong possibility of a January runoff, which seems like a million years from now. Perdue may well recover from his gaffe and win.

But for those who remember the palpable relief Republicans everywhere expressed when Perdue made a runoff spot and then won the nomination, the latest developments are kinda rich. Wouldn’t it be funny if GOPers ultimately wished they’d had Paul Broun or Phil Gingrey on the ballot in November?

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.