ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia Republicans have only a few more hours before they have a Senate nominee in a race that will help decide which party controls the Senate for the final two years of President Barack Obama's administration.
The campaigns of Rep. Jack Kingston and businessman David Perdue continued their last-minute appeals Tuesday as they look for any advantage after a nine-week runoff campaign.
But voter sentiments suggest the fault lines in the race have been clear for weeks, if not months. Kingston supporters like his experience after 11 terms representing southeast Georgia in Congress. Perdue voters say it's time for something different.
Perdue led the primary in May, but both men fell well shy of the majority necessary to win outright. The winner faces Michelle Nunn, one of the few chances for Democrats to pick up a Republican-held seat this fall as the party tries to maintain its majority. Also on the November ballot is Libertarian Amanda Swafford, a former councilwoman from Flowery Branch.
Republicans, meanwhile, know they can ill afford to lose retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss' seat if they hope to elect the six additional senators they need to run the chamber.
Kevin and Nancy Langston of Marietta both backed Kingston over Perdue.
Nancy Langston, a 43-year-old business systems analyst, said she's unhappy with Congress and the president. There's a temptation to go with someone new, she said, "But without a record, it's hard to put your finger on somebody."
Her husband, a 53-year-old payroll coordinator, also said he was comfortable with Kingston's record in Congress. Kingston often cited his 90-percent plus ratings from groups like the American Conservative Union, National Rifle Association and National Right to Life. He also boasted an endorsement, along with more than $2.3 million in advertising, from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
The Langstons are among the Republican voters who were up for grabs after supporting someone else in May. They both backed Rep. Paul Broun, who finished well behind Kingston and Perdue. About 263,000 of the 605,000 primary voters cast primary ballots for one of the five candidates who finished outside the runoff.
Kingston and Perdue aides say they expect fewer than 500,000 ballots for the runoff.
In Columbus, Perdue supporter Mary Sue Polleys said she's been with Perdue since researching all the candidates early in the campaign.
"I've been worried about our country for several years now," said the 70-year-old former school board member. "And you just can't listen to David talk about his ideas and his experience without being taken in."
Polleys said Perdue's business success at Reebok and Dollar General — and even his experience at the failed textile firm Pillowtex — demonstrates a leader who can tackle serious problems in big organizations. It also makes Perdue the stronger candidate against Nunn, she said.
Nunn and Perdue, Polleys said, both have an "outsider" message, but she argued that Perdue's resume trumps Nunn's work leading Republican President George H.W. Bush's Points of Light foundation.
"She's a nonprofit CEO. He's a for-profit CEO. Everything she's done depends on people like him," Polleys said.
The nominee will immediately have to come up with more money for the general campaign. Nunn has raised more than $9 million so far and recently reported having $2.3 million left to spend. Kingston reported a balance of about $1.2 million, while Perdue said he had less than $800,000.