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Greg Bluestein

David Perdue on Donald Trump: ‘I know an outsider when I see one.’

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Sen. David Perdue at the Georgia GOP convention. Greg Bluestein/AJC

Sen. David Perdue at the Georgia GOP convention. Greg Bluestein/AJC

Augusta – How does a rising Georgia Republican star who capitalized on his newcomer appeal continue to claim he’s an outsider after more than a year in the U.S. Senate? He tried to do just that at his address Saturday during his address to Georgia’s GOP Convention.

Republican Sen. David Perdue was the star attraction during the second day of the meeting, and shortly after he strode to the stage, he pulled out his trademark jean jacket and wriggled it on, popping the collar.

And then, moments after he began, he talked about his rise from a former Fortune 500 executive with a famous first cousin who bested a band of veteran politicians in 2014 with an anti-establishment message.

“I was an outsider then. I am an outsider standing before you,” he said. “And I’ll always be an outsider in Washington.”

Perdue, the cousin to former Gov. Sonny Perdue, has made it no mystery that he’s been antsy in Congress amid swirling talk that he could one day seek another office. (His aides and allies have repeatedly shot down rumors he’s eyeing a 2018 governor’s run and dismissed talk, for now, of a potential 2020 bid.)

“I’d be lying if I told you I wasn’t frustrated. I’d be up there for about a year. They offered me the Kool-Aid and I didn’t take it,” he said. “We’ve got to make some of the changes that all of us want to make. And when we put Republicans in charge of the U.S. Senate, we at least started to act again.”

Perdue said months ago he would support Trump should he win the GOP nod, but this week he put an exclamation mark on his support in a Washington Post editorial and in Saturday’s speech.

“With Trump in the White House, we can absolutely save Social Security and Medicare. We have a chance to change the direction of our country. To do that, though, right in this room we have to put our differences aside,” he said, adding: “We have to stand united against the Democrats. We can’t afford a third term of Barack Obama.”

Earlier, at a question-and-answer session with a group of young Republicans, he was asked whether he believed Trump was truly a conservative.

“I don’t know if he’s conservative or not, but I know he’s more conservative than Hillary Clinton,” he told them.

Hours later, he emphasized that message near the end of his address to hundreds of delegates by pulling out Trump’s “Make America Great Again” hat.

“I know an outsider when I see one. Someone who is listening to us. He’s complaining about the very people we complain about – politicians. Bureaucrats. The media. He can win Michigan and Mississippi on the same day. When does that ever happen?”

He added: “He can help us lead again. But he can also help make America great again.”