Senate Majority PAC, the top Democratic Super PAC involved in Senate races, will spend $7.2 million on ads in September aimed at defeating Republican Sen. David Perdue of Georgia, as his race against Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff has turned into one of the most competitive in the country.
The massive new television ad reservation reflects the Democrats’ increased hopes of flipping the historically conservative state this fall.
“Jon Ossoff has built a strong campaign to put this seat in play, and our newest investment will expose the real David Perdue for his long history of putting his own interests over the needs of Georgians,” SMP President J.B. Poersch told CNN.
Georgia has not elected a Democratic senator in 20 years. But Democrats are optimistic that they will compete in the state, spurred by the growth of the Atlanta suburbs and voter expansion efforts led by former state House Democratic leader Stacey Abrams.
Perdue, the former CEO of Reebok and Dollar General, won his first Senate race in 2014 and has become one of President Donald Trump’s strongest allies in Congress. He’s run on delivering aid during the coronavirus pandemic, including billions for hospitals and Congress’ creation of the small business loan Paycheck Protection Program, while warning voters that Ossoff is pushing a “socialist agenda.”
“Chuck Schumer’s corporate super PAC is spending millions lying about David Perdue to prop up Jon Ossoff,” said Perdue campaign spokeswoman Casey Black, calling the Democratic candidate “a privileged liberal with zero real world experience who supports socialized medicine.”
Ossoff, the CEO of a documentary production company, lost his first campaign in 2017, which was the most expensive US House race in history. But in June, he won the Democratic primary with over 50% of the vote, after raising by far the most money in the field and earning the high-profile endorsement of Georgia Rep. John Lewis, the late civil rights icon.
In the general election, Ossoff attacked Perdue for his multi-million-dollar stock trades during the pandemic. Perdue has responded by pointing out that his advisers made the transactions and pledged that they will no longer trade in individual companies.
Ossoff, who supports Medicaid expansion and a public option to reduce the number of uninsured Americans, has also attacked Perdue for voting to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Perdue has defended himself, claiming in a recent ad that “health insurance should always cover pre-existing conditions for anyone.”
At the end of June, Ossoff’s campaign had about $2.5 million on hand, while the Perdue campaign boasted over $10.6 million on hand, according to the latest FEC filings.
Statewide races in the past few election cycles suggest that Democrats are closing the gap in Georgia. In 2014, Perdue won his first race for Senate by about eight points over Democrat Michelle Nunn. In 2016, then-GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton by five points. In 2018, Republican Brian Kemp defeated Abrams in the governor’s race by about a point and a half, amid Democrats’ charges of racially-motivated voter suppression.
Democrats have increasingly invested in Georgia over the past several months. In March, SMP announced its initial fall reservations and left Georgia off the list. But in the summer, SMP’s affiliated groups spent over $13 million, according to Kantar’s Campaign Media Analysis Group.
The substance of the SMP ads this September are unclear. SMP’s latest ad knocked Perdue for his stock transactions during the pandemic.
“David Perdue said it best: Georgia is in play,” said Poersch. “David Perdue campaigned on being a Washington outsider, but he’s proven he’s just another corrupt politician who’s a part of the D.C. swamp.”
Black responded that the campaign has known “from day one” that the race would be “one of the most competitive” in the country.
“Georgians know and trust David Perdue’s leadership, and we’re confident he’ll be reelected to the US Senate this November,” she added.
Republicans are all-in on Georgia. Outside groups aligned with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have spent even more than SMP and its affiliated groups there, as Republicans defend two Senate seats there this fall.
Georgia Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who was appointed late last year to serve the rest of Sen. Johnny Isakson’s term following his resignation, is facing a tough race against a large number of candidates, including GOP Rep. Doug Collins and Democrats Raphael Warnock, the pastor of the Ebenezer Baptist Church, and Matt Lieberman, a businessman and son of former Sen. Joe Lieberman. All of the candidates for that race will be on the same ballot in November, rather than having each party first elect a nominee.
If no candidate receives a majority vote as expected, the top two finishers will advance to a January runoff.