Can Georgia GOP 'outsider' Perdue best Democrats' Nunn?

| Wednesday, July 23, 2014, 6:06 p.m.

David Perdue, former chief executive officer of Dollar General, squeaked by 11-term U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston to win the Republican Party's Senate primary in Georgia on Tuesday.

Perdue takes on Democrat Michelle Nunn in a November election that could test ingrained assumptions about what it takes to win big elections in the modern Bible Belt.

The faceoff between two political neophytes with well-known last names — Perdue is the cousin of former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, and Nunn is the daughter of Sam Nunn, the powerful former senator — is being watched as a harbinger of changing demographics in red states and the ability of Republicans to adjust to emerging voter trends. The state is experiencing minority population growth at a level to make Georgia a swing presidential state by 2020.

More immediately, if Perdue loses to Nunn in November, Republicans probably can kiss goodbye their hopes of taking majority control of the Senate. Republicans need to net an additional six seats to gain control of both houses of Congress for President Obama's final two years in office.

To win, Perdue must stave off Nunn and her backing by the so-called Bannock Street Project, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee's use of voter data and volunteers to target for turnout single women and minorities, who typically participate in midterm elections at lower rates than do older, white, Republican-skewing voters.

Without real primary competition, Nunn has been able to sit on an estimated $6 million war chest, while Perdue has had to empty most of his coffers to survive against Kingston. Perdue's personal wealth likely will enable him to keep up with Nunn, analysts say.

The basic strategy for Nunn is to paint the occasionally gaffe-prone Perdue as an out-of-touch Mitt Romney-like character.

Perdue will run the same kind of outsider campaign that helped him defeat Kingston, a congressional veteran.

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