Per­due for VP?

Sonny makes lists of pos­si­ble McCain run­ning mates

The Covington News - - Local News - By Shan­non McCaf­frey

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.


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