ATLANTA (AP) — Republican David Perdue and Democrat Michelle Nunn found rare agreement Sunday in a debate for Georgia's open U.S. Senate seat, telling a statewide television audience that Congress is broken. But the two rivals offered starkly different reasons for the gridlock as they argued over who's more likely to break the stalemate.
Perdue stuck to his theme that President Barack Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid are at fault and insisted Nunn would be their "rubber stamp." Nunn repeated her mantra that both parties are to blame.
Those strategies go to the heart of this race that will help decide which party controls the Senate for the final years of Obama's administration.
Perdue wants to capitalize in a state Obama twice and where he remains unpopular among the white majority. Nunn needs to win over some of those white moderates and independents, even as she also tries to drive up minority turnout in a state that is becoming less-white with each election cycle.
Polls suggest the contest, which also includes Libertarian Amanda Swafford, could go to a runoff that wouldn't be decided until January. Here's a quick look at some of the major issues and exchanges from Sunday night.
— PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA and HARRY REID: Perdue mentioned Obama or Reid in nearly every one of his responses, frequently referring to a "failed administration" or "failed presidency."
Nunn told Perdue, "I met a farmer recently who told me that if David Perdue wants to run against Harry Reid, he should move to Nevada, and if he wanted to run against President Obama, then maybe he should have run for president."
Perdue stood by his "rubber stamp" attacks. "Barack Obama hand-picked Michelle. He recruited her. He's funded her. Do you really think she's going to bite the hand that feeds her?"
Nunn shot back that "no one hand feeds me."
— LEADERSHIP VOTES: Neither candidate would answer explicitly when asked whether they would support their party's current Senate floor leader. Perdue had said during the GOP primary that he wouldn't support Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell as majority leader if Republicans pick up the six additional seats they need for control.
— OUTSOURCING: Perdue, who has been on the defensive for weeks over the details of his business career, accused Nunn of distorting his business record and the realities of the world economy by attacking him as a corporate leader of "outsourcing." Nunn's reply, "As you say, that is a part of the American free enterprise system. Absolutely. I just don't think it's a quality that the people of Georgia want" in a U.S. senator.
— GUN CONTROL: Nunn repeated her support for the failed Manchin-Toomey bill that would have extended background checks, but not restricted sales of particular weapons. She called it "common-sense" legislation, but added, "I do not support any other form of legislation around guns right now."
— HOW MANY JOBS IS A LOT: Perdue said Nunn's attacks miss that he has "saved and created thousands of jobs" over several decades. He also dismissed her reference to a Dollar General legal settlement with about 2,000 female employees who alleged gender pay discrimination.
At one point, Perdue said, "That was less than 2,000 people. We had upwards of 70,000 employees."
Nunn replied: "Two thousand women? That sounds like a lot to me."
Follow Barrow on Twitter @BillBarrowAP.