All three candidates were onstage at Tuesday night’s lively debate, where the focus was on GOP and Democrat candidates David Perdue and Michelle Nunn. Both vollied attack lines, each arguing that their opponent would be an ineffective representative for Georgia if elected to the Senate. Amanda Swafford, the Libertarian candidate, answered a few questions from the panel, but was largely overshadowed by her two opponents.
This debate drew hundreds, with a split crowd rowdily cheering and booing for both sides. A large portion appeared to welcome Perdue’s criticisms of the Obama administration. This will be one of the closest races on the ballot this year. Democrats have not fared well in Georgia since 2002, when Republicans were able to end Democrat dominance in the southern state. Republicans know that this is a must-win seat if they want to win control of the Senate.
In this hour-long debate, Perdue largely focused on the perceived failures of Obama’s presidency, and noted that if Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid retains his leadership of the chamber, he will continue to be a rubber stamp for Obama’s policies. Nunn responded, “I’m not sure he’s recognized that he’s not running against Barack Obama or Harry Reid–he’s running against me,” making the case that she is a moderate like her father, former Sen. Sam Nunn, and will work in a bipartisan manner to pass legislation.
Perdue doubled down on his statement, responding, “Michelle, I have a lot of respect for you, but you’re dead wrong. I am absolutely running against Barack Obama and Harry Reid. Make no mistake — no amount of false advertising can remove the fact that Barack Obama hand-picked you, he hand-funded you, he’s mentoring you.”
The hot topic of the night was Affordable Care Act, a legislative initiative that remains widely unpopular in the conservative state. Perdue stated that the next two years will still be difficult for Americans, as they are still relying on a 2017 extension date to phase-in compliance with the program. He further said that 2016 presents an opportunity for a national referendum on ACA. Nunn said it fixable, and suggested that more affordable tiers of insurance be added, that tax credits should be extended to small businesses, and ensuring that Americans with pre-existing conditions have access to affordable insurance. It should be noted that these are already prime components of the ACA as it has been enacted. Nunn also said that the debate on healthcare should not continue for six more years.
Nunn spent her debate time questioning Perdue’s business background, most particularly on the subject of outsourcing. In a recent report by POLITICO, Perdue stated in a 2005 deposition that he has spent most of his career outsourcing. Nunn since has been able to use this comment to air negative ads accusing him of outsourcing American jobs.
Perdue defended his comment saying that “industries have been decimated by bad government policy,” and his career was spent “saving and creating real jobs.”
The candidates also covered current events and foreign affairs, ranging from ISIS to the national debt that continues to grow.
On foreign affairs, Perdue attacked Obama, claiming that he had “created a vacuum that allowed the rise of ISIS, and the President has no plan or mission to stop ISIS.” Nunn expressed the need to follow through on the President’s policy, “Continue with air strikes and make sure we have Congressional authorization for long-term engagement”.
The national debt, currently clocking in over $17 trillion, was also under scrutiny last night, and both candidates cited contrasting strategies to resolve the debt crisis. Perdue said that he would, “Cut spending, grow the economy by cutting taxes, pull back the regulators and unlock our energy resources.” Nunn answered, “This issue can only be resolved with a bipartisan collaborative approach on compromise tax reform, cutting out waste and fraud and curving medical expenditure.” Perdue rebutted this statement, stating not one Democrat wants to work with the Republicans in the Senate, and noted that Reid currently has 384 bills stuck on his desk.
Republican candidate David Perdue has a slight lead over Democratic candidate Michelle Nunn with polling showing Perdue with an average advantage of 3 points. However, Amanda Swafford, who currently has a mid-to-high single digit share of the vote, could alter the dynamics of this race. If she garners enough votes to keep either candidate from reaching 50% of the vote, the race will be decided in a January runoff.