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Daniel Malloy

What we learned from the Senate debate

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SAVANNAH —  We predicted fireworks for tonight’s debate, based on a trio of polls showing David Perdue in the lead in the Senate race.

The Perdue campaign went so far as to pre-but attacks by handing reporters an info sheet on the poll results and predicting the others in the race “will get desperate and resort to their typical negative attacks.” Perdue in his opening statement foreshadowed “pandering, desperate attacks and political doublespeak.”

There was but a smidgeon.

In my subscriber-only/dead tree edition piece, I discuss the punchy Jack Kingston on his home turf. His veiled opening statement barb on Perdue was to say “no gate separates your house from my house.” Perdue lives in a gated community on Sea Island.

Karen Handel, traditionally the punchiest, likes to lump the Congressmen together in bashing Washington. But her closing added a Perdue-themed twist:

“We’ve heard a lot of talk tonight but not a lot about results. And the truth is the Congressmen have had 10 to 20 years to do everything they’ve talked about tonight, but they haven’t. And a U.S. Senator is one of 100, not the CEO of the other 99.”

Otherwise, not a glove was laid on Perdue — not even on Dodd-Frank. He had the literal outside position far stage right and continued to attack “the other four politicians” in this race for things like the fact that the U.S. has no coherent energy policy.

***

Rep. Phil Gingrey had another family values tangent. Similar to his attack on rap music in Macon, he had this to say about reaching out beyond the GOP base:

“We talk to them about traditional family values and the importance of if at all possible to have a mom and a dad, to bring you up in the way you should go, and to tell you as a youngster – as Sister Gilbert taught me, and my mom taught me – that, turn off the television. Don’t watch indecent movies and videos and things that you know are not good for you.”

***

The biggest fireworks came between an unlikely long-shot duo: Atlanta attorney Art Gardner and DeKalb County MARTA engineer and minister Derrick Grayson.

Grayson took a question about tax reform and ended up turning it into an attack on Gardner that was off base considering that Gardner had said earlier that he did not want Republicans to focus on “hard-right social issues.” Here’s Grayson:

“Art Gardner wants to be a social conservative, which is not even the job of a senator. Our senators should be protecting the rights of the state, and that means fighting the federal government to get them out of our pockets.”

Gardner replied, “First of all, Mr. Grayson criticized me, but I didn’t here a single quote in response to the questions about how he would simplify the tax code.”

Then a woman in the audience yelled at him “abolish it!” Gardner continued:

“All he did was say abolish it, which gets a lot of applause. Talking about abolishing the IRS gets a lot of applause. It’s entertaining to think about. But it isn’t gonna happen. We have — the government exists. We have to fund the government. We have to have a way of collecting taxes. …

“That means we’re going to have something like the IRS and I didn’t hear a single proposal from Mr. Grayson about how to simplify our code.”

Grayson ended up providing another head-turning remark in his closing statement:

“Working with the disadvantaged, telling young black kids the system may be a little one-sided, but you don’t have to fall victim to it. You just have to make better choices. And while I may be a convicted felon, I was pardoned. While I may have made some mistakes, I’ve got a God that forgave me. And although I violated the law, it was my freedom that I lost. I never violated any of your civil liberties or your rights.”

Grayson has not been shy about his time in prison, but it’s still one that makes your ears perk up amid the talking points.

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