The long-time campaign manager for U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss said today that all the hullabaloo around a potential primary race has been “a real net positive” for Chambliss, dismissed the “rumors” and “rumblings” about a big-name primary challenger as nothing more and said the senator is focused on his day job.
I asked Tom Perdue over the phone what he thought of Gov. Nathan Deal’s comment last week that “it’s way too early to be picking winners and losers” in a Chambliss primary. Perdue replied: “Nothing.”
Frosty is an understatement to describe the relationship between Perdue and Team Deal since Perdue said Deal should drop out of the 2010 governor’s race following revelations about Deal’s financial troubles. Charlie Harper of Peach Pundit pointed out that Perdue’s public appearance with Chambliss at a politically fraught Cobb County GOP breakfast Dec. 1 likely sparked the governor’s ire.
In today’s interview, Perdue speculated that Deal’s non-endorsement could have something to do with Deal’s closeness to U.S. Rep. Phil Gingrey of Marietta, whose name has been mentioned by people who mention names — though Perdue acknowledged Gingrey has indicated he would not primary Chambliss. The more commonly discussed candidates who have not removed themselves from consideration are former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel, U.S. Rep. Tom Price of Roswell and U.S. Rep. Paul Broun of Athens.
Without naming names, Perdue said: “Some of the people, they got their name in the paper, got mentioned on television so they have a little more fame than they currently have. They’re happy. So if they’re happy, we’re happy too. No harm done.”
“We have had a lot of people contact us wanting to do fundraisers for Saxby, much moreso than we have ever had at this point in time in a cycle or in a year,” Perdue said. “And we have had some really good people that have supported Saxby in the past but have not necessarily been out front.”
Perdue praised Chambliss as a “statesman” of the likes Georgia has not seen since the days of U.S. Sen. Richard Russell. He said Chambliss is focusing on the fiscal cliff and his new grandson. Joseph Chambliss Baker was born Monday at 6 lbs., 15 oz. Mother (Chambliss’ daughter Lia) and baby are reportedly doing well.
“He’s not paying any attention to a primary race two years down the road right now,” Perdue said. “He wasn’t doing that the five or six days that everybody was talking about it and he’s still not, and that’s the way it should be.”
- Daniel Malloy, for the AJC Political Insider blog