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Jim GallowayDaniel Malloy

Michelle Nunn says she’s not a sure vote for Harry Reid

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U.S. Senate candidates Michelle Nunn and David Perdue participate in a debate sponsored by the Georgia Chamber at the Marriott City Center in Macon on Thursday. Retired newsman John Pruitt, center, moderated the debate. Kent D. Johnson, kdjohnson@ajc.com

U.S. Senate candidates Michelle Nunn and David Perdue participate in a debate sponsored by the Georgia Chamber at the Marriott City Center in Macon on Thursday. Retired newsman John Pruitt, center, moderated the debate. Kent D. Johnson, kdjohnson@ajc.com

Details of Thursday’s U.S. Senate comparison shopping opportunity that saw Democrat Michelle Nunn and David Perdue square off can be found here.

But the juiciest bit of news may have come shortly after the Georgia Chamber event, when Nunn served notice to her fellow Democrats that she wasn’t a sure vote for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., to keep his job — should her party keep control of that chamber in November.

Said Nunn:

“I look forward to changing the composition in the leadership of the Senate. The way that we’re going to change Washington is to bring more people to recognize – to have the humility to recognize – that there are good ideas on both sides of the aisle…

“I will vote for the Democratic leader that I think best represents our capacity to get things done and move things forward. …”

Your daily jolt on politics from the AJC's Political insider blogDuring a rowdy Republican primary, Perdue was a prominent vote of no confidence for Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and his future bid to lead Senate Republicans. But Nunn argued that, immediately after the July 20 primary runoff, Perdue went to Washington, met with McConnell and “pledged to be a good team player.” (The source for said observation: Sen. Saxby Chambliss, who was in the meeting.)

Said Nunn: “The only team I’m playing for here is Georgia.”

The Reid issue is an ideological benchmark on the Republican side. The only sharp attack that Perdue leveled at Nunn on Thursday (without any mention of her name) was this:

“This race is very simple. If you like what’s going on in Washington, then vote for my opponent. Because you know she’ll be nothing more than a proxy for Harry Reid and Barrack Obama. And nothing will change.”

But in the case of Reid and McConnell, it’s worth pointing out that Georgia’s rookie senator would not necessarily have a choice — there are no expected challenges to the leaders’ perches.

Other notes:

– Both candidates had carefully prepared opening remarks. This was the heart of Perdue’s introduction:

“If you look at the debt that we have today, $18 trillion almost. But that’s not the worst of it. What we’re not talking about is another $86 trillion coming at us in future unfunded liability. The total is over $100 trillion. That’s $1 million for every household in our country. It’s the greatest threat to our national security and our very way of life.”

But Perdue never mentioned the name of Chambliss, who just a year earlier stood on the same stage and accepted the Chamber’s applause for his bipartisan approach to federal debt reduction — a fact that was left for Nunn to point out later in the proceedings.

The format of the event was such that candidates could determine for themselves how lively the event would be. For her part, Nunn quickly served notice that she would be on the attack — with this segue that took her from a volunteer-oriented biography to a shot at Perdue’s temperament, and that of Washington:

“Like you, I’ve sat through lots of business meetings and church meetings and PTA meetings, and people don’t always get along. And y’all know that. But I’ll tell you, they keep at it. They don’t walk out. They don’t shut down. They keep going, and they solve real problems.”

– In a discussion of military spending and the protection of Georgia bases, Perdue waxed downright poetic:

“During the Cuban missile crisis, I was riding my bike after football practice, and listening and watching. About every four or five minutes, a KC-135 tanker or a B-52 took off, going to do the racetrack route around Cuba.”

It’s always important to find that first good line for your autobiography. Nunn, meanwhile, used the opportunity to make her sole reference to her dad:

“Not to brag, but there was never a base closure during his 24 years in the Senate. And that’s not a coincidence.”

But Nunn then took a more serious turn, which her campaign spinners would later highlight:

“The government shutdown, which David said that he was for, furloughed 4,000 folks here at Robins. So we need to work together to preserve and protect our military bases and, in a broader sense, our military capacity as a nation.”

Moderator John Pruitt, the former Channel 2 Action News anchor, offered Perdue time for a rebuttal. Perdue said none was necessary:

“I think that speaks for itself. The situation we had in Washington was over Obamacare. What I was saying was that we cannot default on our interest payments. This was one of the things that was sacrosanct.”

Lost in the chatter of the Perdue-Nunn meeting was the fact that the Georgia Chamber on Thursday essentially endorsed Republican incumbent Nathan Deal in the race for governor. The fact of the endorsement was no surprise, but the timing was. Jason Carter was not in the house, but it’s hard to say whether his presence would have mitigated this glowing introduction from Ernest Greer, vice president of the Chamber:

“We Georgians love people who exude hard work and industry. And for what this governor has done for this state, in bringing focus to what we are doing as a community and as a state, and our cities – we owe it to our governor that he spends another four years in office.”

Deal never mentioned Carter name, but did reference his Democratic opponent’s criticism that the state Department of Economic Development had become a shelter for political appointees. Said Deal:

“Despite what some would say, these are professionals. They don’t just go to ribbon-cuttings. They work extremely hard to make the ribbon-cuttings possible.”

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Bookmark this page: Our crack web staff is compiling polling, fundraising and race projections for the Senate and governor’s races here.

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Here’s the ad you’ll be seeing a lot of in the Atlanta area for the next couple weeks: Emily’s List attacking David Perdue for a gender discrimination lawsuit against Dollar General. It’s got a cool $1 million behind it.

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Pentagon brass on Thursday seemed to nudge President Barack Obama toward widening the mission in Iraq after the beheading of American journalist James Foley. From the Washington Post:

Islamic State cannot be defeated without addressing “both sides of what is essentially at this point a nonexistent border” between Iraq and Syria, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said Thursday. …

A senior Defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity following the news conference, said that no decision has been made to expand airstrikes into Syria, and the White House has not requested any new military options.

Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss, the vice chair of the Intelligence Committee and most certainly a hawk, then went on CNN to lay out the ISIL threat in dark terms:

“This is not going to stop in Baghdad if we don’t stop ISIL now. This is going to continue on to American soil eventually. The time to stop it is now. The place to stop it is on the ground in Iraq.”

Chambliss believes his prescription for wider airstrikes — no U.S. boots on the ground, still — can be done without a new war authorization from Congress, which would be hard to come by:

“The president has the authority under the Constitution to defend Americans. And we have Americans on the ground in Iraq who are threatened by ISIL. I think he can probably take as much action as he thought necessary to protect those Americans that are on the ground. But I will tell you also I would look forward to a debate in the U.S. Senate on this issue.”

On WABE-FM 90.1, Chambliss spoke with Denis O’Hayer on ISIL and also war materiel going to local police departments. He took a similar position to Obama, that the policy needs a review:

“I think if we are going to give it to ‘em then it just makes sense that they’ve got to be trained. That’s pretty sophisticated equipment. It’s MRAPs and other vehicles are not the run-of-the-mill type of vehicles that are used in any type of police activity.

“I don’t know that it’s too easy to access it, but I do think that we definitely need to review the policy and we need to make sure that if local law enforcement are going to receive the equipment, they get the training.”

Chambliss said the National Guard could provide this training, and he did not think Congress should pass Rep. Hank Johnson’s bill to limit the equipment transfers. Or any bill:

“Congress tends to sort of mess things up when we get involved in the weeds and in the details of something like that. And I don’t mean to be dodging it, but I just think the right kind of relationship between the Department of Defense, the National Guard and local law enforcement agencies can solve this problem.”

***

We noted this week that Democrat Jason Carter’s campaign committee was missing any close allies of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, who has been fairly cool to a Carter candidacy. Reed spokeswoman Melissa Mullinax reiterated to our AJC colleague Katie Leslie that Reed is all about Michelle Nunn this year — but those efforts will help Carter by extension:

“Senator Carter’s campaign committee is a solid list of Democrats from across the state and the Mayor wishes them well. The Mayor is focused on running the capital city of the state and delivering concrete results for the people of Atlanta. Mayor Reed did not seek, nor was he asked, to participate on Senator Carter’s campaign committee.  But reporters like to dabble in political intrigue, so some may continue their efforts to create drama where none exists.

“The Mayor has said since January that his focus this year would be on helping Michelle Nunn win the open Senate seat, which he thinks is essential for Democrats to maintain their majority in the United States Senate. And I think you’ll see that anything Mayor Reed does for Michelle will accrue to the benefit of the statewide ticket.

“The path to victory for any statewide Democrat requires an intensive, ground campaign focused on registering, communicating with and turning out 600,000 to 900,000 new minority voters.”

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The National Republican Congressional Committee sees John Barrow’s dog and raises him … a monkey.

Its new ad features a female narrator with a monkey on her shoulder, discussing an oft-lampooned use of federal money: a study on the effects of cocaine on monkeys. It came from the 2009 stimulus law, which was also the year when the ad points out Barrow voted 85 percent of the time for Obama-endorsed bills.

As factcheck.org noted the other day, Barrow’s support for Obama’s position has since plummeted. It was 29.5 percent in 2012 and 35 percent in 2013. Politifact tackled the monkey issue in 2012, ruling that the study was not in the stimulus bill itself, though NIH used some of the pot of scientific research funds for it as a way to test drug addiction without using human subjects.

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We told you Thursday about the AFL-CIO’s election endorsements, pointing out that all of its favored candidates were Democrats. This came from an initial news release of statewide offices and U.S. House candidates, but this morning the union coalition revised and extended its remarks, putting out a full list that included state legislative races — and a couple of Republicans.

State Sen. Josh McKoon, R-Columbus, who has an opponent; and state Rep. Bill Hitchens, R-Rincon, who does not, are Georgia AFL-CIO approved this fall.

***

Your fun 2016 read of the day via the Washington Post: Rand Paul goes to Guatemala to do eye surgeries, followed by reporters, cameras and a bodyguard named Axel. Vaya con Dios.

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