This weekend kicks off a round of political debates for the year’s highest-profile election races in Georgia. Democrat Michelle Nunn will be squaring off against the other contenders in her party for the U.S. Senate, and David Perdue will be doing the same on the Republican side.
Nunn and Perdue are the front runners in their primaries, according to recent polls. They’re vying for the seat being vacated by Saxby Chambliss, who is retiring.
Debate experts say Nunn and Perdue, who will appear in debates on Sunday at GPB, need to stay positive, and not let the candidates trailing them in the polls rattle them or induce them to commit an error.
In turn, those lesser-known candidates will be trying to position themselves either as spoilers in this year’s elections or for future runs at office.
Avoid ‘Rick Perry Moment’
“You have to be far more aggressive and hope that you press enough buttons that the front runner makes a mistake or puts the proverbial foot in his mouth or has what we call a ‘Rick Perry moment’,” James Rolland, a debate coach at Emory University’s Barkley Forum, says. “They’re the ones who are really trying to score points or throw the front runner off.”
Rolland is referring to a moment in a debate during the 2012 Presidential campaign when Texas Governor Rick Perry lost his train of thought and said, “Oops” on national television. It wound up being a joke on the late-night talk shows and effectively ended his candidacy.
Kathleen Searles, a political scientist at Georgia Regents University in Augusta, agrees that only the front runners need to be so careful.
“For the rest [of the candidates], it’s all out warfare,” she said.