Perdue for VP?
Sonny makes lists of possible McCain running mates
ATLANTA — Now that Sen. John McCain has all but locked up the Republican presidential nomination, speculation is already turning to whom he’ll select as a running mate.
One name that’s begun to surface on various media lists making the rounds is Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue. He’s received at least two mentions in the Washington Post and several plugs from the army of pundits that populate the cable news channels.
Could the governor who made fishing tourism the centerpiece of his legislative agenda last year really be a vice presidential contender? Some political experts say it’s not out of the question.
McCain will need to bolster his support among social and religious conservatives, especially in the Bible Belt. As a senator, McCain might want to turn to someone with executive experience, like a governor. And the proven ability to raise large sums of money would be a plus.
On paper, Perdue fits the profile almost perfectly. A southern governor who led a prayer service for rain on the steps of the state Capitol, Perdue was also at the helm of the Republican Governors’ Association last year as it shattered its previous fundraising record.
His national star rose among Republicans when he coasted to re- election and solidified the GOP hold on Georgia in 2006, a year dominated by Democratic victories elsewhere.
Perdue’s also got a friend who has McCain’s ear. Former Georgia Republican Party Chairman Alec Poitevint is southern cochairman of McCain’s campaign.
“ Do I think Sonny Perdue is capable of being vice president of the United States? Absolutely yes,” Poitevint said Friday.
Poitevint said he’s known both the McCains and the Perdues for years and that they “ have a lot in common.”
“ Both of them have a special love of children, especially children who need help and who need special attention,” he said. The McCains adopted a child from Bangladesh. Perdue and wife Mary were foster parents for several newborns awaiting adoption.
Still, Perdue has been criticized for pushing an anemic agenda that lacks any big signature issue. His “ Go Fish” program to promote fishing tourism was ridiculed in 2007. He’s taken small steps on two of the state’s most pressing issues: transportation and health care.
Perdue, a one- time Democrat, has enjoyed a sometimes rocky relationship with the state’s fiscal conservatives. They were irate that he pushed through a tax hike on cigarettes to close Georgia’s budget gap just after taking office in 2003. That ire was reignited last year when he vetoed a property tax refund being championed by House Republicans.
As a vice presidential prospect, Perdue’s own private dealings would come under a national microscope. Democrats assailed him during his 2006 re- election campaign for what they said were ethically suspect land deals and legislation he signed that saved him about $ 100,000 in capital gains taxes.
“ It would be just a natural extension of the BushCheney administration,” former Democratic Party chairman Bobby Kahn said. “ Self- dealing, Scooter Libby justice. He’s the least ethical governor in modern times so he would fit right in.”
Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia, said Perdue might be a contender if McCain decides he needs to shore up his Southern base. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee swept most Southern states on Super Tuesday, including Georgia.
But Bullock noted that McCain may also conclude that the South is a safe Republican bet in a general election and pluck a running mate from the Midwest or another region thought to be more of a battleground.
Perdue has brushed aside speculation that he has national ambitions.
Asked about the vice presidency at a recent press conference, Perdue said he’s focused on being governor.
One thing’s for sure. If he’s picked, there will be a fight for the Internet domain name.
McCainPerdue. com has already been snapped up, and not by Perdue’s team. It’s home to a less than flattering profile of the Georgia governor.