Like many others in America, Georgians have been bombarded recently with the last-ditch efforts of Senate candidates Michelle Nunn (D), David Perdue (R), and their respective allies.
Even Libertarian candidate Amanda Swafford admitted during the final televised debate that she’s planning to see a runoff. The polls have been back and forth over the past month, with the latest Real Clear Politics polling average putting Perdue ahead by just 0.4 percent.
That’s 46.1 percent for Perdue and 45.7 for Nunn, a statistically insignificant margin. By Georgia law, if neither gains at least 50 percent of the vote on Tuesday there will be a runoff in January.
The fight for control of the Senate has been bitter and excruciatingly close. According to the Wall Street Journal, victory will likely come down to four key races, and Georgia is one of them. Both President Obama and The Economist claim Nunn is the best chance Democrats have to take the Senate.
In the build-up to November, we’ve seen the money and endorsements roll in from both sides. Although Nunn stopped to volunteer and give back to each community she visited, she made sure to keep the campaign’s main focus on fundraising. Pulling in more than $14 million, she has managed to do far more than stay afloat during the race.
Perdue, on the other hand, has led a rather different battle. His ability to raise funds for the general campaign was placed on hold until after the primary election runoff in late July. While he has done well to catch up, raising almost $12 million, it is not necessarily his campaign funds that will help him take the lead in these final days. Yet something seems to be holding major conservative players back in Georgia’s Senate race.
The Leaders of the PACs
Maybe Republicans simply don’t feel threatened in Georgia. After all, most news sources have predicted a GOP win for the state, even when they categorize Georgia as only leaning red. The state has been headed by GOP members for almost two decades, with district lines heavily in Republicans’ favor. What’s more, over 40,000 voter registration applications that likely belong to minority and low-income voters are currently hanging in limbo after a Georgia judge refused to hear the case.
We have seen large monetary campaign input from conservative organizations like Citizens for a Working America, the National Federation of Independent Business, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and especially the National Republican Senatorial Committee. The National Rifle Association and its NRA Institute for Legislative Action have done their fair share to push Georgians toward Perdue. Even the Susan B. Anthony List, the largest pro-life PAC in America, has announced its support for Perdue to counteract Planned Parenthood’s support for Nunn. Perdue’s polling among women has gone from 13 points behind Nunn to only two points down.
On Nunn’s side, we’ve seen EMILY’s List and Women Vote! come out in her favor, along with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, People for the American Way, and others. We’ve seen endorsements from the Obamas, her father and beloved former Sen. Sam Nunn, former Georgia Gov. Zell Miller, and now Hilary and Bill Clinton. We’ve seen mass emails from pro-Nunn PACs like J Street, brutal television ads condemning Perdue for abandoning Pillowtex, and even a major contribution from former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg to Nunn super PAC Georgians Together. The donation of $350,000 was recently revealed as the primary fuel for the PAC’s ad campaign attacking Perdue.
The donation comes in on the coattails of vicious barbs from the National Rifle Association connecting Nunn to Bloomberg’s anti-gun rhetoric. The conservative organization spent $780,000 on a television ad to run in Augusta, Macon and Savannah. This also trails a series of ads paid for by the Ending Spending Action Fund linking Nunn to Harry Reid, Obama, and even Ebola. Together, the Ending Spending Action Fund and its counterpart, Ending Spending, Inc., have spent nearly $2 million in attack ads against Nunn.
Yet big names in the lobbying world like George Soros and the Koch brothers have been mysteriously absent in this close race. Tom Steyer’s $16 million donation this month to the NextGen Climate Action committee went to Senate races in Michigan, Iowa, New Hampshire and Colorado. Liberal environmental group the Sierra Club is listed on OpenSecrets.org as having only contributed $10 to the Nunn campaign as of Oct. 15.
The Koch brothers’ super PAC, the Freedom Partners Action Fund, has spent more than $25 million this year to help GOP candidates in the Senate race. But so far the PAC has ignored Georgia, focusing instead on the six seats Republicans are looking to pick up—in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire, and North Carolina—rather than the three seats it may lose in Georgia, Kansas, and Kentucky.
Sure, the numbers tell us that conservative organizations have spent more money on the whole in Georgia’s Senate race, but the polls tell us that hasn’t been enough to push out support for Nunn. So when is that last big push? Where was the October surprise we were all waiting for? Why haven’t the big guns come out yet?
Bring out the big guns
OpenSecrets.org reports show that outside organizations have spent more than $10 million against Nunn – a sharp contrast to the $2.5 million liberal-leaning groups have spent to attack Perdue. Nunn’s campaign seems to be doing a good enough job with that already.
Recent attack ads from Dems, in particular, have been brutal and plentiful. Democrats paid for several fliers to entice African-American voters to “prevent another Ferguson” by voting. Perdue responded in an interview that he found it “disappointing” to see such “divisive” tactics being used.
The newest release from the Nunn campaign is an extended television ad painting Perdue as a job-killer that mimics ads Obama used against Mitt Romney in 2012. Usually we see these vicious ads, referred to as “sniper ads,” from candidates who are falling behind in the polls and in funding. Yet Nunn’s campaign has held strong throughout the race, keeping the polls very tight and leading in campaign funds by more than $2 million.
The question remains: If Georgia is so close and key to gaining the Senate, why haven’t Republicans met fire with bonfire?