Human Behavior

There is definitely no logic to human behavior.

How is the Senate race shaking out?

For several months, the Republican primary in Georgia’s Senate race has seemed like a cage match between five politicians who are all biting and gouging to see who can move most quickly to the far right edge of the ring.

The national media is fascinated by this race and routinely describes it as a freak show staged by a party hell-bent on blowing itself up.  Typical of this viewpoint was a recent article by Benjy Sarlin of MSNBC that was headlined, “GOP threatens to push self-destruct button in Georgia Senate race.”

You can see why they would get that impression.  One of the leading candidates (Paul Broun) has raffled off an AR-15, the same model of assault weapon used in the Sandy Hook school massacre.  Broun still gets a lot of mileage from the internet video clip in which he says that evolution and other theories of modern science are “lies straight from the pits of hell.”

Then there’s Rep. Jack Kingston of Savannah, who spent two decades crafting an image as a somewhat moderate congressman willing to cut deals on the budget — he has tried to reinvent himself as a Broun-tinged rightwinger.  Kingston was the one who said low-income children should be ordered to “sweep the floor of the cafeteria” before they’re allowed to eat a government-subsidized lunch.

Or Rep. Phil Gingrey, a former obstetrician who said Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin was was “partly right” in his remark that a woman wouldn’t get pregnant if she was the victim of a “legitimate rape.”

There’s even a minor candidate (Derrick Grayson) who openly acknowledges his background as a convicted felon.  “I engaged in criminal activity that resulted in a prison sentence,” Grayson said at a campaign appearance.  “That was a choice that I made.  Nobody else was to blame.  That was all on me.”

But there have been some signs in recent weeks that the race is starting to sort itself out, at least a little.

A flurry of recent polls shows businessman David Perdue, the cousin of former governor Sonny Perdue, leading the field by a small margin, although still below the 30 percent support level.  Kingston and Broun are right behind Perdue, with Gingrey leaking support and Handel dropping steadily to the bottom.  Every recent poll has put Handel, who nearly won the 2010 GOP primary for governor, in fifth place with 10 percent or less support.

“It’s clear that Perdue’s strategic decision to invest in an early television media buy is paying off,” said GOP pollster Mark Rountree. “His ads have had an impact on voters. In fact, the two candidates who have invested in television ads, Perdue and Kingston, have seen the largest increase in support among voters.”

While the race shows signs of starting to settle out, it’s far from over.  Each of the recent polls also included a large number of undecided voters ranging from 25 percent to 45 percent.  There are still a lot of people who say they have not made up their minds yet, leaving every candidate, theoretically at least, with room to grow.

Handel rolled out an endorsement last week from Sarah Palin, obviously hoping that the former Alaska governor can spark some kind of fire among primary voters.  But that magic didn’t work very well for Handel in 2010 and it seems less likely to do her any more good in this race.

Perdue, for the moment, seems to be profiting from a campaign in which, like Michelle Nunn on the Democratic side, he positions himself as the outsider who’s never run for office before but, by God, has the smarts and the integrity to fix what’s wrong in Washington.

Perdue put it this way in a radio spot:  “If you’re as outraged as I am by the size and scope of our government, by the amount of money they take from our pockets and by the inexcusable childish behavior exhibited in Washington right now, then I hope you’ll give this outsider from Georgia a chance.”

Perdue is just as conservative as his four primary opponents, but he has been willing to take some stands that seem out of place among today’s Republican voter.

Every other Republican in this race wants to repeal the Dodd-Frank law that was passed to curb the Wall Street finagling that caused the financial crash of 2008.  At a candidate forum earlier this year, Perdue said this:

“I’m not going to go up there and tell you I’m going to repeal Dodd-Frank.  I will tell you I’m going to fight to amend it. And to do that, I think I can find some Democratic senators who will join in with logic and be led into a reasonable solution.  That’s the only way out of this box frankly.”

Perdue chided Kingston for proposing that children from low-income families be required to sweep out the school before getting a free lunch:

“With all the nonsense worth criticizing in Washington right now, Congressman Kingston chose to ridicule children who, through no fault of their own, rely on free school lunches.  The congressman should be focused on growing the economy so that these children’s parents have quality jobs and don’t need the assistance.”

Perdue sounded even more dangerously liberal in an interview published in the Feb. 16 edition of the Marietta Daily Journal.

Common Core educational standards are considered by many tea partiers to be a conspiracy involving Barack Obama and the Muslim Brotherhood, but Perdue said:  “The original intent (of Common Core), I agree with that. It’s where it gets into the details, into the weeds of how it’s going to be administered, that’s where I have a problem with that.”

Perdue said this about abortion:   “If the life of the mother is threatened, somebody needs to make that decision. I don’t think that should be the federal government. I think that should be left to that family — that mother and that family. Likewise, when you get into it, that logic holds true, but then you get into OK, what happens if your 13-year-old daughter is raped? What would you do? It’s one thing to stand up and beat your chest and, ‘Oh, no, no exception, no exception,’ but what would you do?  And that’s where I come back, and that needs to be the decision of that family, in my opinion.”

Perdue also doesn’t like the idea of allowing guns everywhere:  “I have a problem with college campuses, with the availability to underage kids there. So my first blush reaction to that is no, I don’t agree with having guns on college campuses. I know there are some people that say, ‘No, that’s part of the Second Amendment right,’ but there’s a reason I believe that we have some exclusions to that.”

For tea partiers and movement conservatives, those kinds of remarks are pure heresy, making Perdue eligible to be burned at the stake.

Broun can’t raise money, but there is a chance that Club for Growth or the Heritage Foundation or some other Beltway organization might step in and pump some cash into his campaign tank in this era of virtually unlimited giving.

We seem to be headed for a runoff involving a tea party candidate – and that looks like Broun at this point – opposing an “establishment” candidate amenable to the Wall Street wing of the party, probably Perdue or Kingston.

© 2014 by The Georgia Report

Tags: David Perdue , GOP primary , Jack Kingston , karen handel , Paul Broun , Phil Gingrey , Senate race

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