The one-hour debate at Georgia National Fair between Senate Democratic candidate Michelle Nunn and Republican candidate David Perdue was a rough and tumble affair, as the audience punctuated each sound bite with the vigor of crazed sports fans.
The candidates’ supporters began to scream twenty minutes before the 7 p.m. start time, provoking surprised smiles and excited looks from the debate panelists.
“We’re going to begin to start but we’re going to need to hear the candidates,” said CBS affiliated reporter and moderator Frank Malloy, who fiddled with his earpiece to better hear the cue to begin. “Alright we’re going to have to start,” he continued. “We appreciate your enthusiasm and your passion very much.”
Nunn in her opening statement praised the “raucous” and “enthusiastic” crowd. It was an understatement. After Nunn’s question to Perdue regarding how high the minimum wage should be, one panelist, Jeff Hullinger of NBC’s Atlanta affiliate, tweeted out that “no one can hear each other including us.” Before the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Jim Galloway asked Perdue an Obamacare question, Galloway half-joked, “You’re going to have to pardon me if this question has been asked already, but I’m kind of deaf at this point.”
Even the candidates couldn’t hear each other well on stage, especially in the segment where one candidate asked the other a question.
“Could you say it for me one more time, I’m sorry,” Nunn asked Libertarian candidate Amanda Swafford, who was pushing the Democrat on gay marriage. “David, I didn’t hear all of that, but I think I got the gist of it,” said Nunn in response to Perdue, who questioned Nunn’s agriculture credentials.
Despite, or perhaps because of, the noise, no candidate really got off his or her talking points. Perdue didn’t really answer Nunn’s question about where he would set the minimum wage. (He said “unilaterally” increasing the minimum wage is a job killer.) Nunn sidestepped the question by Perdue asking where she ranked farmers in compared to other priorities.
“You know Michelle, back at you, you didn’t answer that question at all,” said Perdue. “How do you justify to the farmers that in your list of priorities there are 17 items more important than the farmers in this state?”
“There’s no plan that has that listed,” responded Nunn, who talked about her desire to be on the Agriculture committee and her support of the Farm Bill, which Perdue opposes but both current Republican senators support.
The election between Nunn and Perdue (and the libertarian Swafford) is one of the closest in the country. If no one captures 50 percent of the vote, a run-off election occurs on January 6. And for those that could hear, the debate reiterated that there is a clear delineation between the two major candidates on some major issues, including health care and immigration reform.
Nunn says that the Affordable Care Act needs to be reformed by adding a more affordable tier of health care coverage, extending tax credits to small businesses and repealing cuts that threaten rural hospitals. Perdue says it needs to be repealed and replaced, claiming that the law has led to rising health care costs, jobs destroyed, and less access to health care. He believes that aspects of the law should be delayed and that there should be a referendum in 2016 on the law. The law is “one of the worst laws that has ever been passed in the United States’ history,” according to Perdue.
Nunn supports the Senate’s bipartisan comprehensive immigration reform bill; Perdue opposes it since the bill “did not define amnesty properly” and gave the Department of Homeland Security “discretion” about securing the southern border, which is not acceptable to Perdue, he said, due to the threat of radical Islamic terrorists from Syria and Iraq.
“I’m not sure that he recognizes that he is not running against Harry Reid or Barack Obama,” Nunn said of Purdue. “He’s running against me.”
Perdue might realize who is opponent is, but he’s firm on running against the unpopularity of the president instead of Nunn, whose father, Sam Nunn, is a well-respected former Georgia senator. “Michelle I have a lot of respect for you, but you’re dead wrong,” said Perdue. “I’m absolutely running against Barack Obama and Harry Reid.”
“You’re first vote will be for Harry Reid as Senate Majority Leader,” he added. “We cannot stand two more years of his and possibly 10 more years of this direction….You will not bite the hand that feeds you.”
Those words were at least heard. Earlier in the debate, the moderator Malloy had found himself at a loss. “Look, I can’t even hear what they’re saying,” he said to the crowd. “And in order for me to be able to find out whether there’s time for rebuttal, I need to be able to hear if they’re attacking one another. And I think our panelists are having alittle trouble hearing right now too. So we’re going to have to move on but I love your passion.”