Indeed, looking at a map of Georgia shows the state divided in two between the vote-rich northern half that went for Perdue and the less populated southern half that Kingston won. Perdue came out ahead by a thin margin, 245,725 votes or 50.88 percent, to Kingston’s 237,192 or 49.12 percent — a difference of only 8,533 votes.
Perdue’s pitch as the outsider resonated in Cobb, which he won 54 percent to 46 percent, rounded, outdistancing Kingston 25,359 to 21,827, a margin of 3,532 votes. But Perdue did better in all the other nine counties of metro Atlanta. In Gwinnett he won 56 percent to 44 percent, rounded; in Cherokee 55-45, DeKalb 57-43, Rockdale 58-42, Clayton 63-37, Fayette 60-40, Fulton 55-45, Henry 58-42 and Douglas 58 percent to 42 percent.
As soon as Kingston conceded Tuesday night, he and Perdue suddenly had kind words for each other. Perdue in comments on live TV spoke warmly and approvingly of his erstwhile rival, and Kingston immediately pledged to support Perdue to win in November against Democrat Michele Nunn and “keep Georgia in the Republican column.”
The outcome could hardly be called an upset even though Kingston had led in the polls after coming in second in the primary. As reported by this newspaper, a sampling of Cobb voters confirmed Perdue’s appeal was his outsider standing. For example, retiree Bobbe Pharr of Smyrna said she saw Perdue as an outsider who, she believes, “is going to be different” and is “going to really work for us and try to take this country back.” Like many people, she worries about her children and grandchildren because “this country is not what it was” when she was a child and when she raised her children.
Now there are two outsiders — and political novices — in the general election battle for the Senate seat that is so critical for Republicans to hold onto if they are to wrest control of the upper chamber from the Democrats. Perdue and Nunn will no doubt find plenty of ammo to fire at each other. It’s obvious that Perdue’s strategy will be to link Nunn with Barack Obama, so unpopular in Georgia. Perdue has to make the case that a Democrat — even the daughter of the iconic former Sen. Sam Nunn — is still a Democrat bound by party to Obama.
Otherwise, forget the personal attacks on Nunn, who wears the mantle of her highly respected father and moreover even has a positive bipartisan connection as executive of former President George H. W. Bush’s foundation. On the other hand, Perdue may well be vulnerable to attacks on his business record, notably the demise of North Carolina textile company Pillotex, which cost thousands of jobs even though he said the core problems predated his tenure as CEO.
Bottom line: Georgia definitely will have an outsider as the next U.S. senator.