OPINION: Perdue campaign cratering in epic fashion

Back in 2020, I accused then-U.S. Sen. David Perdue of cowardice in quickly buying into the defeated president’s Trumpian lies about a stolen election.

I called it “Profiles in Toadying,” a craven effort to save his political hide.

The kowtowing continued last year when he waged a Republican primary challenge against Gov. Brian Kemp based solely on the notion that Governor Shotgun caved to the woke election-stealing mob.

But I may have been wrong about Perdue: It takes guts to go out and so publicly make a fool of oneself.

The man who made a fortune as a Captain of Industry and then became a member of the exclusive Club U.S. Senate will ultimately be remembered as a failed politician who first got Ossoffed in a runoff election and then prostrated himself to Donald Trump in a bid for a political comeback.

Perdue’s campaign for governor was simply a howl of aggrievance at perceived wrongs done to him and Donald Trump. But now that campaign is imploding in epic fashion.

On Tuesday, my Atlanta Journal-Constitution colleagues authored a piece headlined “Where in the world is David Perdue?”

With just a week to the primary, the candidate for the state’s biggest government job has largely gone dark. One could put his dyspeptic mug on a milk carton to find him. That is, if there’s anyone left who cares to.

Republican Congressman Drew Ferguson recently said Perdue’s campaign is “on life support.”

ExploreFrom the newsroom: Guide to the Georgia governor's race
Combined ShapeCaption
Former Sen. David Perdue responds to Gov. Brian Kemp during the gubernatorial GOP debate at the headquarters of the WSB-TV on Sunday, April 24, 2022. Miguel Martinez /miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com

Credit: Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Former Sen. David Perdue responds to  Gov. Brian Kemp during the gubernatorial GOP debate at the headquarters of the WSB-TV on Sunday, April 24, 2022. Miguel Martinez /miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com

Credit: Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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Former Sen. David Perdue responds to Gov. Brian Kemp during the gubernatorial GOP debate at the headquarters of the WSB-TV on Sunday, April 24, 2022. Miguel Martinez /miguel.martinezjimenez@ajc.com

Credit: Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Miguel Martinez for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

In March, a Fox news poll had Perdue within reach of Kemp, 50% to 39%. Last month, Kemp’s lead grew to 53% to 27% in an AJC poll of likely voters in the Republican primary.

It’s been a bad spell for the Perdue campaign.

Last week, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney delivered Perdue a proper judicial spanking on the election lawsuit that defined his candidacy. The suit, filed just four days after he launched his campaign, was a compilation of the Stop the Steal’s greatest hits.

McBurney, a former federal prosecutor with a built in BS-detector, plodded through the voluminous screed before determining what he had been forced to read was “speculation, conjecture, and paranoia — sufficient fodder for talk shows, op-ed pieces, and social media platforms, but far short of what would legally justify a court taking such action.”

The ruling was his legalese way of saying, “Counselor, please remove this steaming pile from my bench!”

Kemp now is intent at putting Perdue out of his misery, running up the score on him like UGA’s football team putting a thumping on a weak sister like Austin Peay — which, fittingly, is known as the “Governors.”

There are a few other warm bodies in the GOP primary, but Kemp is intent on getting a 50%-plus vote tally to avoid a runoff that might give Perdue oxygen.

Kemp has been trotting around the state, conducting ceremonial bill signings to tout his legislative victories and is importing GOP stars like former Vice President Mike Pence to gain a last-minute flourish. It’s funny how it works. In 2018, Kemp attacked GOP front-runner Casey Cagle as an establishment tool. Now he’s The Establishment.

In 2014, a blue jean jacket-wearing Perdue earned a longshot victory running as an outsider for an open U.S. Senate seat. In 2016, the AJC wrote about Perdue’s “star on the rise.” Now it seems he’s quietly looking for a soft landing.

I sent a few questions to his campaign but didn’t hear anything.

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U.S. Sen. David Perdue, endorsing Donald Trump and his "outsider" movement at the Georgia GOP convention in Augusta earlier this year. Jon Richards/Georgiapol.com

Credit: Jim Galloway

U.S. Sen. David Perdue, endorsing Donald Trump and his "outsider" movement at the Georgia GOP convention in Augusta earlier this year. Jon Richards/Georgiapol.com

Credit: Jim Galloway

Combined ShapeCaption
U.S. Sen. David Perdue, endorsing Donald Trump and his "outsider" movement at the Georgia GOP convention in Augusta earlier this year. Jon Richards/Georgiapol.com

Credit: Jim Galloway

Credit: Jim Galloway

I called former state Sen. Eric Johnson, who was on the ground-floor of the GOP takeover of Georgia in 2002, a movement headed by the surprise gubernatorial victory of Perdue’s cousin, Sonny.

Sonny, recently installed as head of Georgia’s university system with Kemp’s blessing, is sitting this one out. I contacted Johnson because he posted a recent photo of Kemp surrounded by his old Georgia Senate crew from two decades ago. Johnson wondered aloud why none of Perdue’s former U.S. Senate colleagues have come to Georgia to stump for him.

“I almost feel sorry for him,” Johnson told me, noting David Perdue’s business and political successes.

“I don’t know what caused him to run,” he said. “The word is that (his wife) Bonnie didn’t want him to run, that Sonny didn’t want him to, nor did Alec Poitevint (his former top aide who is now backing Kemp).”

Charlie Harper, a conservative writer who now works in public policy, recently wrote: “It’s as if he’s been sent on a kamikaze mission from former President Donald Trump, without getting the memo that kamikaze pilots are generally not around to receive their distinguished service medals.”

I get it, nobody wants the spotlight to dim. Perdue reminds me of just about every boxer ever who retires, reconsiders, and returns for an ill-fated comeback — myself included. I gave it up and returned two years later for the Golden Gloves.

I promptly received the old Leather Shampoo.

A little advice for the Senator: Ice packs work.