During his first 18 months as a U.S. senator, David Perdue had not made much of a splash on the national scene. He was just another backbencher in a Senate dominated by bitter fights between party leaders.
Perdue had his breakout moment last week when the Republican freshman offered up a religious admonition to conservative Christian activists at a Faith & Freedom Coalition conference in Washington, D.C.
He urged attendees to pray for President Barack Obama and added this biblical reference: “I think we should pray for Barack Obama, but we need to be very specific. We should pray like Psalm 109:8 says: Let his days be few, and let another take his office.”
The audience thought that was quite funny, and this reference to Psalm 109:8 is a joke that has been used often during Obama’s presidency. It’s a handy way for someone to imply they want the president to be physically harmed without actually having to say the words.
The key is in the remaining lines of the verse: “Let his children be fatherless, and his wife a widow.
“Let his children be continually vagabonds, and beg: let them seek their bread also out of their desolate places.
“Let the extortioner catch all that he hath; and let the strangers spoil his labor.
“Let there be none to extend mercy unto him: neither let there be any to favor his fatherless children.”
Perdue’s biblical moment put him on the national radar and generated angry criticism from the opposition, as with this response from the Georgia Democratic Party’s Michael Smith: “Joking about the death of the president of the United States is contemptible and beneath the office of a United States senator. Sen. Perdue should apologize immediately — not only to President Obama, but to the people of Georgia.”
In today’s political atmosphere, of course, no one ever apologizes; they counterattack.
Perdue spokesperson Caroline Vanvick fired back: “He in no way wishes harm towards our president, and everyone in the room understood that. However, we should add the media to our prayer list because they are pushing a narrative to create controversy, and that is exactly what the American people are tired of.”
As an outsider businessman elected to political office, Perdue has a similar background to Donald Trump’s. He’s a major Trump supporter and predicts that Trump will win in November, telling a Republican group in Georgia recently: “I know an outsider when I see one — someone who is listening to us. He’s complaining about the very people we complain about — politicians, bureaucrats, the media. He can win Michigan and Mississippi on the same day. When does that ever happen? ... He can help us lead again. But he can also help make America great again.”
Perdue puts his money where his mouth is. He and Gov. Nathan Deal are hosting a fundraiser for Trump in Atlanta this week.
Trump is embroiled in a controversy over his attacks on federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who’s presiding over a lawsuit involving Trump University. Curiel was born in Indiana to parents who emigrated from Mexico and became American citizens. Trump complained that Curiel could not be a fair judge because he “happens to be, we believe, Mexican,” which was a false accusation.
Perdue has his own history with Hispanic judges. He helped block the federal court nomination of Dax Lopez, a highly respected DeKalb County jurist whose confirmation was supported by many prominent Georgia Republicans. Perdue’s opposition forced Lopez instead to run for another term on the State Court bench.
Perdue’s fervent support of Trump, his business background and his disdain for Latino citizens could well be hints that the senator wants to get his name into consideration as Trump’s vice presidential running mate.
It’s been speculated in conservative circles that Perdue wants to run for president someday. Being picked as Trump’s vice president, even if that campaign doesn’t succeed, would give Perdue the kind of national name identification he would need in a future election.
Perdue may have to fight off Newt Gingrich on this one — the former speaker is also angling to be picked as Trump’s running mate. But don’t be surprised if you hear Perdue’s name bubble up soon in the pundits’ speculation.
Tom Crawford is editor of The Georgia Report.