In Ga. Senate race, crying babies rule TV ad wars

by CHRISTINA A. CASSIDY, Associated Press

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In a recent campaign ad, Georgia Senate candidate David Perdue depicted his opponents as crying, fidgeting infants.


Three candidates in the state's rollicking GOP primary race for an open Senate seat have aired television ads featuring crying infants as the campaign cacophony rises over taxes, who's the most conservative and more ahead of Tuesday's nationally-watched primary.

Leading the way is former Dollar General CEO David Perdue, who aired the first ad depicting his opponents, some of whom are members of Congress, as crying, fidgeting infants. A baby wearing pearls represented former secretary of state Karen Handel, the only woman in the race. Another baby wore glasses like Rep. Jack Kingston, and two more sported stethoscopes. Reps. Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey, also GOP contenders, are doctors.

"If these politicians had any understanding of the free enterprise system and knew how to make a difference, wouldn't they have done it already?" Perdue says in the ad, which flashes an image of hundreds of babies on the lawn of the U.S. Capitol. "Help me change the childish behavior up there. If we want different results in Washington, we have to send a different type of person to Washington."

Gingrey responded with an ad that opens with what appears to be the babies from Perdue's spot. But Gingrey quickly pauses it and says, "Clever. But you deserve better than politics as usual."

Kingston also chimed in, portraying Perdue as the child.

"Meet Davey Perdue," the narrator says as the ad opens on a crying toddler who later covers himself in cake. "He's been distracting you with babies, but he's the one who's made a mess."

The race is among a dozen with national implications as Democrats look to hold off Republicans who could take control of the Senate. Republicans need to gain just six seats to claim a majority and can't afford to lose the one in Georgia. Democrat Michelle Nunn is likely to advance in her primary, and the daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn has proved to be a formidable fundraiser.

Perdue's ad, which started airing before the other candidates were on television, helped vault Perdue to the top of the crowded Republican primary field, tapping into Congress' low public approval ratings by portraying his opponents as career politicians with a combined 63 years in elected office. Before the ad, Perdue was perhaps best known as the cousin of former Gov. Sonny Perdue.

The architect of the ad is well known Republican media strategist Fred Davis, who has advised presidential campaigns and is known for pushing the envelope. The crying babies ad was typical Davis: over-the-top, provocative and a conversation starter.

One of his most memorable spots came during the 2008 presidential race, when he was working for Arizona Sen. John McCain. The "Celebrity" ad likened Barack Obama to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, calling the then-senator from Illinois "the biggest celebrity in the world." It currently has 2.4 million views and is frequently cited as one of Davis' signature contributions to politics.

Another classic was an ad for Perdue's cousin in the 2002 Georgia governor's race, in which the sitting governor, Democrat Roy Barnes, was depicted as "King Roy," a giant rat with a gold crown stomping across the state. The ad was credited with helping Sonny Perdue win, the first time a Republican was elected governor in Georgia since Reconstruction.

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