Gloves come off in Georgia Senate debate
© Courtesy of David Perdue

Former charity executive Michelle Nunn (D) and businessman David Perdue (R) traded blows in front of a deafening crowd Tuesday night, with Nunn slamming Perdue's business record and Perdue painting her as a liberal lapdog.

Nunn went hard after Perdue for his comments in a recently exposed 2005 deposition that he had spent "most of [his] career" focused on outsourcing, while Perdue time and again argued that Nunn would refuse to stand up to President Obama.

"He would be the only senator that, from his own words, has built a career around outsourcing American jobs. That is not the experience we need in Washington," Nunn said early in the debate. "David in his deposition talked about 16 countries ... but not once did he talk about creating jobs in the United States."

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Perdue fired back.

"This is another attempt by my desperate opposition to use one line out of a 186-page document to define my career," he said. "Over the past 30 to 40 years we've decimated entire industries because of bad government policies."

Perdue sought time and again to tie Nunn to the president, who is deeply unpopular in Republican-leaning Georgia. He scoffed when Nunn discussed "focusing on compromise."

"Her first vote would be for Harry Reid as majority leader," he said. "You say you want to be a team leader, a conciliator, but you will not bite the hand that feeds you."

Both candidates ducked and dodged panelists' questions, circling back to those core talking points. That may have been partly from necessity — everyone onstage had to ask for questions and comments to be repeated over the roar of a rowdy crowd at the Georgia National Fair. The only quiet moments came as libertarian Amanda Swafford, also onstage, bashed both major parties and argued neither candidate could effect change in Washington.

"I can't even hear what they're saying," lamented the moderator at one point.

"I just want to remind folks that he just yesterday said he was proud of a career in which he spent the majority of his time outsourcing jobs," Nunn said later in the debate. "His pride cost a lot of people quite a bit of pain."

Perdue said he was "proud of spending my career creating and saving real jobs," firing back at Nunn's "false attacks" and saying she would be a "rubber stamp for [Obama's] failed agenda that has put more people out of work than since Jimmy Carter was president."

Nunn slammed Perdue for opposing the farm bill and comprehensive immigration reform and for backing last year's government shutdown. Perdue accused Nunn of supporting ObamaCare and "amnesty."

"He's not running against Harry Reid or Barack Obama. He's running against me," Nunn fired at Perdue at one point late in the debate.

"You're dead wrong. I am absolutely running against Barack Obama and Harry Reid," Perdue fired back. "No amount of false advertising will move the fact that Barack Obama handpicked you, hand funded you, he's mentoring you."

Recent polling has found Perdue with a narrow lead in the race, one of a handful that will decide Senate control. Swafford has been polling at around 5 percent, and if she pulls enough to keep both candidates under the 50 percent threshold next month they'll face off in an early January runoff election.

—This post was updated at 8:46 p.m.