AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Republican David Perdue has spent the better part of a month defending his business record in Georgia's tight U.S. Senate race, as Democrat Michelle Nunn blasts him as an out-of-touch businessman who shipped jobs overseas.
On Wednesday, Perdue received some help fighting back against those attacks from someone who's been there — 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. At an Augusta rally with a few hundred Perdue supporters, Romney argued that Republicans, not Democrats will help the poor and middle class.
"I'd like to see a few more people in Washington who understand where jobs come from, understand how hard it is to create them, what it's like to compete," Romney said. "And David Perdue has that understanding. He's got that kind of character and commitment that will keep this country strong."
Georgia has emerged as a key battleground in the fight for control of the Senate, and Democrats see Nunn as one of their best hopes nationally to pick up a seat and thwart a GOP push for a majority. Nunn has been laser-focused on Perdue's career as a high-level executive at several major U.S. companies, arguing Perdue got rich while plants closed and people lost jobs.
Nunn received a boost earlier this month when a 2005 court deposition surfaced in which Perdue acknowledged spending "most of my career" on outsourcing and then responded to a question about his career by saying: "Defend it? I'm proud of it."
Those comments have been part of a steady barrage of negative TV ads. In the latest one, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee argues Perdue hired workers in China as an executive with Sara Lee Corp. while the company shut down four Georgia manufacturing plants. "We need jobs in Georgia, not China. David Perdue is not for you," the ad says.
Those attacks are similar to the ones Romney faced in 2012, when he was accused of taking over companies only to close them or let them fail during his time with a private equity firm he helped establish.
Romney said Democrats were quick to "demonize" their opponents rather than debate the issues. He noted Georgia voters had rejected the attacks on him in 2012 and predicted they would do the same for Perdue. Romney won Georgia that year with 53 percent of the vote.
"People have heard these kind of arguments time and time again in campaigns," Romney said. "The people of Georgia said we don't believe those kind of attacks, we understand what it takes to be in an enterprise and to try and create jobs and make the business successful ... That's one reason they voted for me and why they're going to vote for David Perdue."
Perdue has said his critics don't understand or ignore the tenets of a free-enterprise system and that outsourcing doesn't always mean shipping jobs overseas. He points to his time as CEO of Dollar General, a company that doesn't manufacture products but obtains goods and services from other companies.
Perdue also pushed back against a new line of attack from Nunn in which she criticized his response to a question about a wage discrimination lawsuit filed against Dollar General. At a debate Sunday, Perdue said the claims involved less than 2,000 women.
"Two thousand women seems like quite a lot to me," Nunn said in response. On Wednesday, Perdue said "no amount of discrimination" was acceptable.
"We absolutely built our foundation (at Dollar General) on equal pay for equal work, and I'll stand by that," Perdue said.
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