Health care fallout raises Baker, Perdue profiles

By James Salzer
 and Cameron McWhirter   In the aftermath of Congress’ divisive health…

Georgia (Mar 29, 2010) — By James Salzer
 and Cameron McWhirter


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In the aftermath of Congress’ divisive health care vote, one of the more unlikely political donnybrooks erupted here last week between Attorney General Thurbert Baker and Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue.

The two men now suddenly find themselves party standard-bearers on health care as Georgia heads into a heated campaign season.

Baker, struggling with his campaign for governor, suddenly is getting national coverage on liberal blogs and Web sites as President Obama’s defender. Perdue, perceived as a hands-off lame duck and the titular head of a fractious state GOP, has been transformed into a defiant defender of states’ rights. His office has been flooded with calls and e-mails of support. …

“If I was Thurbert Baker’s political consultant, I would be delighted by what has occurred,” said Kerwin Swint, a Kennesaw State University political scientist. …

Perdue has not expressed any future political aspirations. But he clearly aims to preserve his legacy. The last thing he wants is for a Democrat to take back the governorship, particularly Roy Barnes, the man Perdue defeated in 2002.

Like Baker, Perdue has a history of going against the wishes of his party.

Perdue was a Democratic lawmaker before switching parties in the late 1990s. In 2003, a few days after being inaugurated as Georgia’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction, Perdue proposed raising cigarette, alcohol and property taxes to fill holes in the state budget. He was criticized by party stalwarts, and many of his tax proposals stalled.

He twice vetoed tax-cut bills pushed by Republican leaders. And this year, again facing a fiscal crisis, he proposed a hospital tax that again brought condemnation from some GOP quarters.

While Perdue is well-liked among the GOP faithful, he is generally not seen as a straight party-line partisan. …

The health care fight gives Perdue the chance to be a party leader again, said Swint at Kennesaw State.

“He looks on himself as being a loyal soldier,” Swint said. And he said Perdue believes he is helping the national party, which sees this as a key issue to motivate the Republican base in November.



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