The Georgia Senate debates that took place on Sunday gave each candidate to explain to the state’s voting public why they should trust them to represent the state. But something was missing from the event: Incumbent Sen. David Perdue, who opted to skip the debate.
Democrat Jon Ossoff, who is running for Perdue’s seat, debated an empty podium as he answered the moderator’s questions. The incumbent stated last month that he “declined to participate” in the debate.
Ossoff took full advantage of his opponent’s refusal to debate. “The reason that we are losing thousands of people per day to this virus is because of the arrogance of politicians like David Perdue. So arrogant that he disregarded public health expertise and so arrogant that he’s not with us here today to answer questions,” he said, responding to a question about the COVID-19 outbreak.
“It shows an astonishing arrogance and sense of entitlement for Georgia’s senior U.S. senator to believe he shouldn’t have to debate at a moment like this in our history,” he added.
At the point where candidates usually ask each other questions, Ossoff noted that it is “a strange situation to be asking a question of a sitting United States senator who is not here to debate, as he asks for the votes of the people to be re-elected.”
Perdue’s campaign attempted to turn the one-sided debate into a weapon against the challenger. “Tonight we witnessed something we didn’t know was possible: a candidate lost a debate against himself. An epic failure,” said Ben Fry, Perdue’s campaign manager. “Jon Ossoff came out in support of blanket amnesty, a national lockdown, and made clear he doesn’t want to ‘get bogged down in the details’ about additonal COVID relief. These are serious times and Jon Ossoff just showed how unserious — and unprepared — he really is. Georgians will reject Jon Ossoff once again next month.”
Perdue’s refusal to debate his opponent wasn’t exactly the smartest decision. It sends a clear message to Georgians: Perdue is entitled to your vote and shouldn’t have to work for it.
Of course, this may not be how the senator actually feels about the issue, but his actions are delivering that message nonetheless. It gave his opponent even more ammo with which to attack him. It was unnecessary and potentially damaging to his campaign.
Perdue has debated his opponent multiple times prior to Election Day. Under normal circumstances, it might make sense to skip this event. But the stakes in this race are far too high to take a seemingly cavalier approach to the runoff elections.
This race will determine which party controls the Senate. The GOP has to hold on to at least one of these seats to ensure that the Democrats do not provide a Senate that will push former Vice President Joe Biden’s agenda should he take office next year.
Even worse, his refusal might also give more credibility to those on the right who wish to boycott the election and allow the Democrats to win. If someone like Perdue doesn’t think this race is important enough to stand on a stage and defend his ideas for an hour, what is the point of showing up to support him?
Will Perdue’s failure to debate his opponent yesterday destroy his chances of winning? Normally, it probably wouldn’t, but in a race this close, he needs every opportunity he can get to show Georgians why he is the right candidate and why his opponent is not. To put it simply, there was no valid reason to pass on this opportunity. Hopefully, it won’t cost him his seat on Jan. 5.
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