This afternoon’s forum of U.S. Senate candidates was a relatively staid affair, with each candidate trotting out his or her stump speech before an economics-minded audience put together at Turner Field by the National Federation of Independent Business.
Karen Handel kept pointing to the lack of “results” from her three congressional rivals. Jack Kingston noted his longterm relationship with Johnny Isakson. Phil Gingrey again positioned himself as the most electable conservative. David Perdue, a well-spoken newcomer in the GOP field, continued to impress.
But within the two-hour event was a pair of dramatic flairs – one by U.S. Rep. Paul Broun and another by the lone Democratic participant, Branko Radulovacki.
The NFIB is oriented more toward Republicans, so we’ll start with Broun, who over the last few days has been attempting to present himself as the sole true conservative in the GOP primary.
In a discussion of federal deregulation, the Athens congressman had this to say:
“Once we the people are demanding a different kind of government -- less government, not more, not an efficient socialist government like most Republicans in Washington have been promoting, like most candidates – or all the candidates -- in this race are promoting. We’ve got to go back to constitutional, limited government.”
Video will be available at the NFIB website later this week for all to inspect. But afterwards, Broun said he was not accusing his GOP rivals of being fellow travelers. “I didn’t call them socialists by any means. I’m not sure what you heard, but we cannot continue to build a bigger federal government. We’ve got to go back to what the Constitution says,” Broun said.
On Monday, Broun criticized GOP rival Jack Kingston, the congressman from Savannah, for bragging about his conservative ranking from the National Journal. The magazine/website bases that characterization on how many times Kingston and others voted with the House GOP leadership, Broun said.
“I don’t vote with the leadership. And that’s what the National Journal rating is all about. I’m fighting the big government that Republicans are working to make more efficient. We’ve got to start sending those powers back to the states and the people…”
Kingston was loathe to respond to Broun’s attacks. Asked if he considered House Speaker John Boehner to be a liability in a U.S. Senate race, Kingston gave a terse “No.”
But when presented with a staffer’s assessment that “dogs don’t chase parked cars,” the Savannah congressman agreed.
Now, as for Dr. Rad.
Michelle Nunn, his Democratic rival, declined a side-by-side appearance, as has become her custom. Which left the Vinings psychiatrist in a situation akin to Daniel in that lion’s den.
Dr. Rad's support for the Affordable Care Act – “What I think we can’t afford as a country is to do a U-turn” – served as a tee that allowed Republicans to swing away.
But it was a question on support for the minimum wage that allowed Dr. Rad to separate himself to some effect. First the others:
Broun: “I’ll do everything I can, as a member of Congress, as a U.S. senator, to make sure we never, ever again raise the minimum wage.”
Gingrey: “It would be the stupidest idea I can think of, other than continuing with Obamacare.”
Handel: “The only thing raising the minimum wage is going to do is diminish the number of jobs out there.”
Kingston: “I worked minimum wage….I wasn’t worth the $1.60 an hour they had to pay me. But I was fortunate the business was able to adjust and I was able to get that opportunity….It’s an opportunity wage. If we raise that opportunity wage too high, you quit hiring.”
Perdue: “If you got this economy going, you wouldn’t be sitting here talking about minimum wage. Why are we talking about minimum wage? Because one out of five people in America today are unemployed or underemployed.”
And finally, Dr. Rad:
“Small business owners recognize and understand that the key to their success is a productive, loyal workforce. In order to do that, we need to pay our workers fairly, we need to provide them with benefits, and we need to insure their economic stability. In my office, I offer three times the minimum wage….
“Small business owners benefit when they invest in their workers….A key concern of NFIB members is high inventories. Well, how do we help you get rid of that? We have to increase demand. The two gentlemen to my right said, in different responses, we’ve got to put money in the pockets of consumers. This is what an increase in the minimum wage will do. I believe it’s a win-win, and I support it.”
On one more note: Perdue is still learning as a candidate. He has yet to conquer the sound-bite, which is good for journalism and bad for nervous campaign managers.
But in offering his biography, Perdue went through his resume, which includes a successful turnarounds at Reebok and Dollar General. The candidate then described himself as “a co-founder of a small business here in Georgia.”
“We focus on exporting American-made products to emerging markets around the world. We bought a trucking company last year,” Perdue said. He couldn’t bring himself to acknowledge that his fellow co-founder was former Gov. Sonny Perdue, his cousin.