The Stupidest Primary of 2014 Is Over

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
July 23 2014 8:56 AM

The Stupidest Primary of 2014 Is Over

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Jack hits the road, finally

Photo by Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images

Way back in March, before I got the chance to report from Georgia myself, I suggested that the state's Republican primary for U.S. Senate would be the establishment's finest 2014 hour. Two embarrassing congressmen, Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey, were likely to lose the primary, and with it their House seats. The likely winner of the primary would be David Perdue, a first-time candidate running on his business experience with Reebok and Dollar General, a man who was running as an "outsider"—plenty conservative but unable to speak the right jargon. Sort of like Mitt Romney.

Last night Perdue narrowly won the GOP nomination, after a long runoff against Rep. Jack Kingston. The congressman had won the endorsement of the Chamber of Commerce, which had helped him make the runoff, and he led in every public poll, but Perdue held on to more of his vote amid collapsing turnout. The result: a victory for Perdue's theme, which in the hands of admaker Fred Davis became an allegory about how professional politicians were whining babies. (The imagery was reminiscent of a Bloomberg Businessweek cover that ran after the 2013 government shutdown.)

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Kingston fought back against that with his own baby ad.

This drew a swift response from Perdue's campaign, which did not lack for baby footage.

Seriously, Perdue had a lot of baby footage.

In the closing weeks, when it appeared that Perdue needed one more good body hit to go down, the chamber put together an ad that jiujitsu'd the baby theme in a remarkably lazy way.*

This dire air war was the most heated part of a campaign about very little. The chamber had backed Kingston over a bevy of far weaker and more gaffe-ready candidates; it had not, before the primary, had real worries about Perdue. It just bet on a member with a reliable voting record over a businessman who resembles the median chamber activist. Sort of like Mitt Romney! 

But the campaign's over now. Georgia voters face a choice between a businessman-candidate backed by few members of the party establishment, with Tea Party backing limited to that of Herman Cain, and a dynastic Democratic candidate (Michelle Nunn) running to the center. It's the closest race that no ideological camp is going to care about.

*Correction, July 23: This post originally misstated that the chamber spent $1 million to run an ad that portrayed Perdue as a baby. The chamber made a big late ad buy, but it was for other spots—I'm told the baby video never ran on TV. It was covered by the Huffington Post and ABC News, but the free media was all the media it got. Mea culpa.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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