ATLANTA (AP) — To hear their rivals, Michelle Nunn is a liberal “hypocrite” who campaigns as a moderate but would be little more than a rubber stamp for President Barack Obama, while David Perdue is a wealthy corporate executive who would do nothing but continue the partisan bickering in Washington.
The Democrat Nunn, her Republican rival Perdue and Libertarian Amanda Swafford jabbed at each other in a televised debate with Sunday evening, the second of three meetings before the Nov. 4 election that will help determine which party controls the Senate.
Polls suggest that the race could go to a runoff that wouldn’t be decided until January, with the possibility that the Senate’s power structure could still be in play.
Here’s a look at several noteworthy exchanges that occurred with Nunn, Perdue and Swafford sharing the stage for an hour.
— PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA and HARRY REID: Perdue wasted no time in attacking the president and found a way to mention him or Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in nearly every one of his responses. It’s an understandable strategy in a state Obama lost twice.
Nunn said she disagrees with the president on his decision to block the Keystone XL Pipeline, military spending and his style in dealing with Congress. She told Perdue, “I met a farmer recently who told me that if David Perdue wants to run against Harry Reid, he should move to Nevada, and if he wanted to run against President Obama, then maybe he should have run for president.”
Perdue stood by his “rubber stamp” attacks. “Barack Obama hand-picked Michelle, He recruited her. He’s funded her. Do you really think she’s going to bite the hand that feeds her?”
Nunn shot back that “no one hand feeds me.”
— GRIDLOCK and LEADERSHIP VOTES: Perdue blamed congressional gridlock on Reid and his blocking House GOP proposals. Nunn attacked that as evidence that “David thinks the solution is in prosecuting one party.”
But neither candidate would answer explicitly when asked whether they would support their party’s current Senate floor leader, with Perdue against blistering Reid.
That’s different than the GOP primary, when Perdue said he wouldn’t support Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell as majority leader if Republicans win the Senate. Nunn repeated her intention to “vote for the Democrat who best serves the interest of ending gridlock.” She added, “I know how to tell Harry Reid no.”
— GUN CONTROL: In a question directed only to her, Nunn repeated her support for the failed Manchin-Toomey bill that would have extended background checks, but not restricted the sales of any particular weapons.
She called it “common-sense” legislation, but explained, “I believe that every law-abiding citizen should have access to guns. … I do not support any other form of legislation around guns right now.”
— SOCIAL SECURITY and MEDICARE: In a question offered only to Perdue, the Republican sidestepped a query about what he would do, specifically, to shore up the two massive social programs that make up about 40 percent of federal spending. He stuck to the well-worn GOP lines of “protecting” current beneficiaries, while “looking at changes” for younger workers.
— FERGUSON MAILER: The Georgia Democratic Party last week distributed flyers encouraging black voters to support Democrats or risk another Ferguson. Nunn, as she did after the flyer’s distribution, didn’t directly answer a question of whether she supports such an appeal.
— LIBERTARIAN SPOILER: Given the chance to endorse Nunn or Perdue in a hypothetical runoff, Swafford declined. “We’ve been controlled for decades by both parties,” she said.
— OUTSOURCING: With polls showing Nunn’s attacks on Perdue’s business record have tightened the race and perhaps propelled her to a narrow lead, she renewed her attacks on Perdue once saying in a deposition that he “spent most of (his) career” outsourcing.
He repeatedly accused Nunn of misrepresenting both his comments and the way the world economy works. Her reply: “As you say, that is a part of the American free enterprise system. Absolutely. I just don’t think it’s a quality that the people of Georgia want” in a U.S. senator.
— HOW MANY JOBS IS A LOT: Perdue said Nunn’s attacks miss that he has “saved and created thousands of jobs” over several decades. He also dismissed her reference to a Dollar General legal settlement with about 2,000 female employees who alleged gender pay discrimination.
“There was no wrong-doing there,” Perdue said. “That was less than 2,000 people. We had upwards of 70,000 employees.”
Nunn replied: “Two thousand women? That sounds like a lot to me.”