In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Georgia GOPers Spar Over Whether You Need A College Degree To Be Senator

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AP Photo / David Goldman

The ad, released last week, is one of the latest attacks between the two candidates over what is increasingly shaping to be a fight over whether Perdue is too elitist or whether Handel isn't qualified to be a United States senator. Perdue has repeatedly touted his business experience in the race. In December he said the other candidates "don't have the business background" necessary to go to Washington and improve the economy.

In video that resurfaced recently, Perdue made a rather unsubtle jab at Handel's lack of a college degree in January.

"I mean, there's a high school graduate in this race, okay? I'm sorry but these issues are so much broader, so complex," Perdue said. "There's only one candidate in this race that's ever lived outside the United States. How can you bring value to a debate about the economy unless you have any understanding about the free enterprise system and how — what it takes to compete in the global economy."

Handel's campaign didn't let that slide.

"It is disappointing that David would demean someone who — by no fault of her own — moved out of an abusive home at age 17, and with her own hard work and determination, is the embodiment of the American Dream," Handel campaign manager Corry Bliss told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in a statement.

Roughly a week later Perdue took a rare step in a GOP primary and called Handel to apologize.

"David made a heartfelt personal call to Ms. Handel that was intended to remain private," Perdue spokesman Derrick Dickey said of the call. "He contacted her directly for no other reason than to let her now he was sorry for the comment. There is certainly no expectation for her to change campaign tactics."

It's understandable, from a political point of view, why Perdue apologized and why Handel is continuing to attack him. National Journal recently noted that just 27.8 percent of Georgians 25 and older have a bachelor's degree or something higher than that. Meanwhile, 84.4 percent have a high school diploma.

"About two-thirds of Georgia adults do not have college educations so there are a lot of toes that could be stepped on there," University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock told TPM on Monday. "I think what that really is indicative of is the kind of rookie mistakes that individuals who have been very successful in other aspects are guilty of when they try to run for public office."

"I don't know that it necessarily means that people would unbuckle from his campaign and immediately sign up with Handel's, but it may mean that they would back away from Perdue and move toward [Georgia Republican Senate candidate Rep. Jack] Kingston," Bullock continued.

"The elitism thing doesn't play that well in Georgia," Bullock added.

Listen to Handel's new radio ad below:

About The Author

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Daniel Strauss is a reporter for Talking Points Memo. He was previously a breaking news reporter for The Hill newspaper and has written for Politico, Roll Call, The American Prospect, and Gaper's Block. He has also interned at Democracy: A Journal of Ideas and The New Yorker. Daniel grew up in Chicago and graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.A. in History. At Michigan he helped edit Consider, a weekly opinion magazine. He can be reached at daniel@talkingpointsmemo.com.