The Jolt: David Perdue, where art thou?

Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., left, stands with Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., and Ivanka Trump, Assistant to the President, during a campaign rally, Monday, Dec. 21, 2020, in Milton, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., left, stands with Sen. David Perdue, R-Ga., and Ivanka Trump, Assistant to the President, during a campaign rally, Monday, Dec. 21, 2020, in Milton, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Credit: John Bazemore

Credit: John Bazemore

Senate votes, cash calls, and an Isakson tribute lead the day

Catching up with U.S. Sen. David Perdue is no small feat lately. Although the senator is on what he describes as a 125-town statewide bus tour, for all but the largest events with other Republicans, his campaign alerts only GOP supporters and a few local media outlets in advance. The general public and most reporters learn about them through Perdue’s Twitter feed later.

Even reliable Republican voters say they’re missing events because they didn’t know Perdue was in town. And when he has appeared in metro Atlanta, he has avoided taking questions from reporters, including one recent event in Cumming where he left U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler to face the cameras alone.

But we did make it to a Perdue event last night with Loeffler in the lobby of the Parkside Main 8 movie theater in Greensboro. (Free popcorn!)

Both senators talked up the importance of the Jan. 5 runoffs for control of the Senate and the existential crisis they said the country will face from socialism if the two Democrats are elected.

A few noteworthy items that stood out:

  • Perdue said he won in November, in a way: “Look, I already won this election. Guys, I love ya, but I’d rather be here talking about Kelly, not me. I won this election by two points. Do y’all realize that’s a bigger win than a lot of people who have already been in the United State Senate?” In almost any other state, he’d be back in the Senate by now, Perdue said, adding, “But here we are in a runoff.”
  • He also touted the COVID relief bill, but did not mention the $2,000 checks President Donald Trump said he wants to add to the bill: “Trump last night signed the COVID relief bill. He didn’t have to do that. Relief is coming to Georgia. We’ve already saved a million and a half jobs with that first round of PPP...and we’ve got more help coming.” His aides have refused repeated requests for comment on his stance on the more generous stimulus checks, which could soon reach a vote in the Senate.
  • He tried to falsely connect Hunter Biden to Jon Ossoff (whose company was paid about $1,000 to license a documentary to a Hong Kong-based media company): “Who knows what the relationship is like between Jon Ossoff and the Chinese Communist Party? What we know is that he did work for the Chinese Communists at the same time they were influencing (Eric) Swalwell and Hunter Biden. Now you tell me where this thing ends.”
  • Another World War II? “Most of our parents were members of the Greatest Generation. They had their moment. This is one of ours.”

The uber-disciplined Loeffler gave the same version of her stump speech we’ve heard many times, with a few key additions, including this about Warnock:

“You might have seen today there’s some more news about child abuse investigations he obstructed. Now we know why he obstructed them. These are dangerous policies. They’re dangerous people. And we have to hold the line right here in Georgia.”

Loeffler put a finer point on her criticism on Fox News last night: “It’s disgusting. It’s really alarming, and frankly it should be disqualifying.”

She was referring to a report in the conservative Free Beacon yesterday on a young man who said he was mistreated at the summer camp that Warnock oversaw in Maryland years ago.

You can read more about that 2002 case here; the AJC has reached out to the former camper and his attorney and others associated with the case multiple times seeking comment.

Warnock has said of the case that he was “working at trying to make sure that young people who were being questioned by law enforcement had the benefit of counsel, a lawyer or a parent.”

***

Interviews with Sen. Perdue are even harder to come by than an invite to a campaign event. Last night, Rahul Bali from the Oconee Radio Group did get a few minutes with Perdue, when he asked if the senator is worried that the refusal of local leaders, like U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, to acknowledge the election results could hurt turnout on Tuesday.

Perdue said “political prognosticators” will need to answer the turnout question, but he, too, avoided declaring the November election fair and complete.

“What I know is this, I’m standing with the president,” Perdue said. After detailing the ways he’d been instrumental to the Trump agenda, Perdue added, “Now I’m standing alongside and fighting, not only to find out what happened in November, but to get him a full accounting. He has every right to ask the state for a full accounting of what happened in November, and that has not happened yet.”

***

Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock just shattered campaign records by raising more than $100 million each in the last two months. But their campaign managers sent an urgent memo calling for more funds.

“To win this election in eight days, we need to continue our historic efforts to turn out every single voter — but we won’t be able to do that if our fundraising revenue continues to fall,” read the memo, penned by Warnock campaign manager Jerid Kurtz and Ossoff campaign manager Ellen Foster.

So far, the Democratic candidates have outspent their Republican rivals by about $75 million. But the GOP incumbents have a hefty advantage among outside groups. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, conservative groups have spent about $129 million more than liberal counterparts.

“Not only are these races incredibly close but we’re being outspent by $80 million on TV alone as Mitch McConnell and his special interest allies try to keep two of their most reliable votes in the U.S. Senate,” read the memo.

Republicans called it a “fundraising ploy” from two Senate candidates who have had little trouble raising heaps of cash.

Meanwhile, Ossoff’s campaign said Monday that grassroots volunteers, organizers and staffers have made more than 5 million phone calls and fired off 4 million text messages since the runoff election began.

***

Already posted: The U.S. House voted Monday evening to increase the size of individual stimulus checks from $600 to $2,000, as President Donald Trump demanded when he signed the COVID relief bill over the weekend. But the House also rebuked Trump in a separate vote to override of his veto of the annual military spending bill.

The House action now sets the stage for a pair of potentially tough decisions for U.S. Sens. Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue.

As early as Tuesday, the two incumbents could face a vote on whether to endorse Trump’s call for heftier payments or stand firm on the spending measure they approved just last week. They also must decide whether to join the House’s reprimand of Trump’s veto of the must-pass defense spending bill, which includes a pay raise for service members.

***

Republicans highlighted the raunchy and sometimes offensive Twitter posts made by one of the rappers who performed at a joint event Monday hosted by the Rev. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff. The most offensive post was one referencing rape that BRS Kash apparently made in 2012.

Kash attempted to scrub his account by deleting that tweet and others. But not before conservatives took screengrabs and began sharing them once the AJC reported about his performance.

Warnock’s and Ossoff’s campaigns didn’t immediately respond. Many of their supporters countered the conservative backlash by stating Kash’s tweets were no worse than comments and posts that President Donald Trump has made himself.

***

A small item with local consequences was tucked into the massive COVID relief bill that the president signed Sunday. The Chamblee Research Support building at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be renamed “the Johnny Isakson Public Health Research Building.”

It’s a fitting tribute for Isakson, who championed public health during his years in the Senate.

***

Over the weekend, Charlie Hayslett of Trouble In God’s Country did some county-by-county crunching of early voting data. A taste:

Through the most recent county-level early voting data reported by georgiavotes.com, the 28 counties that sided with Ossoff in the general election — all the state’s heavily populated urban counties and a smattering of heavily black rural counties — were turning out a higher percentage of registered voters than the 131 mostly rural counties that went for Perdue.

As of Sunday’s data, 29 percent of registered voters in the Ossoff counties had already voted in person or by mail versus 26.8 percent in the Perdue counties — an advantage of more than two points in a category historically dominated by Republicans. More than 30 percent of registered voters have already voted in such Metro Atlanta behemoths as Fulton, Gwinnett, DeKalb, Douglas and Rockdale counties…

A couple of clusters of dependable Republican counties — Oconee, Greene, Morgan and Putnam in just east of Metro Atlanta and Union, Towns and Rabun on the North Carolina line — are already in the high 30s and, in a couple of cases, the low 40s. But the vast majority of counties that supported Perdue in the general election are still lagging badly behind in the mid- and even low-20s.

There’s nothing permanent about this advantage, Hayslett says – noting that Democrat Joe Biden had piled up an early vote advantage over Trump of nearly 230,000 votes — and then saw it wiped out on Election Day.

- Trouble in God's Country

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