Perdue seeks payoff from Trump loyalty in Georgia runoff

FILE - In this Friday, Nov. 13, 2020 file photo, candidate for U.S. Senate Sen. David Perdue speaks during a campaign rally, in Cumming, Ga. Perdue is hoping years spent as one of Donald Trump's biggest defenders pays off in Georgia, a state the president lost in last month's election. Perdue and Georgia's other senator, Republican Kelly Loeffler, are both campaigning for Jan. 5 runoff elections that will decide control of the Senate. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)
FILE - In this Friday, Nov. 13, 2020 file photo, candidate for U.S. Senate Sen. David Perdue speaks during a campaign rally, in Cumming, Ga. Perdue is hoping years spent as one of Donald Trump's biggest defenders pays off in Georgia, a state the president lost in last month's election. Perdue and Georgia's other senator, Republican Kelly Loeffler, are both campaigning for Jan. 5 runoff elections that will decide control of the Senate. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

SAVANNAH, Ga. – In 2014, David Perdue introduced himself to Georgia voters as a corporate executive capable of bringing pragmatism to a Congress depicted in his first TV ad as a bunch of diaper-clad, crying babies.

“Help me change the childish behavior up there," he asked voters in his winning campaign for U.S. Senate.

Since then, the Republican who promised level-headed maturity in Washington has been swept up in the tornado of Donald Trump's White House. Perdue became one of the Senate's chief defenders of a president known for schoolyard insults and who still refuses to accept his own election defeat.

Now Perdue is at the center of one of the most intense Senate races in recent memory, fighting for reelection in a Jan. 5 runoff election that will determine which party controls the Senate. It's an unexpected role for a politician described even by close allies as someone who doesn't stir strong passions.

“He’s not flamboyant,” said Alec Poitevint, a Georgia businessman and GOP activist who serves as Perdue’s campaign chairman. “But one thing is, he’s consistent. He never changes.”

Perdue fell just short of the 50% threshold he needed to defeat Democrat Jon Ossoff outright on Nov. 3. Fellow Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler is in a runoff against Democrat Raphael Warnock. If both Perdue and Loeffler lose, Democrats will control the Senate in the new Congress.

Perdue's runoff campaign has focused on ensuring Trump's base shows up to vote again. The senator has backed the president's failed effort to toss out millions of votes and overturn Democrat Joe Biden's victory.

Though Perdue hasn’t repeated Trump’s election fraud claims, he backed a failed Texas lawsuit that sought to invalidate Biden’s victory in Georgia. Perdue also called for Georgia’s Republican secretary of state to resign, citing unspecified “mismanagement” of the election.