Politics

GOP Senator Stays Out of Presidential Contest

Perdue has not yet endorsed  a candidate in the GOP Primary. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In a year where "establishment" endorsements haven't carried much weight, GOP Sen. David Perdue's might have made a difference. After all, he is a businessman who won a contested primary against veteran members of Congress to fill the Senate seat vacated when Georgia Republican Saxby Chambliss retired  

But Perdue told Roll Call in a brief interview ahead of the Georgia primary that he did not intend to make an endorsement or appear at any campaign events with candidates, and he followed through on that. His message at a conservative summit Thursday showed he's focused on a GOP victory, regardless of the nominee.  

"No matter who our presidential candidate is, no matter who our nominee is, we cannot allow Hillary Rodham Clinton one more night in our White House," Perdue said at the Conservative Political Action Conference at the National Harbor in Maryland on Thursday.  

Perdue was one of a handful of freshman GOP senators to speak at the annual conference. And he focused on the importance of addressing global security, federal debt, growing the economy and curbing health care costs.  

Several of his fellow freshman -- including Sens. Cory Gardner of Colorado, Steve Daines of Montana and Thom Tillis of North Carolina -- have backed Sen. Marco Rubio , R-Fla., for president.  

"I'm staying out for the simple reason that I've really tried to influence all the presidential campaigns about the debt crisis and the national security crisis and how they're interlocked," Perdue said before the primary. "(John) Kasich is going around with a debt clock now. And (Jeb) Bush, before he dropped out, was talking about how bad the budget process is, and he's right."  

"(Ted) Cruz is talking about it, (Donald) Trump's taking about it a little bit. So, we're really trying to help inform and encourage all the campaigns right now about getting that message out, and also to talk about the high ground for Republicans," Perdue said  

He added that the focus should be on promoting conservative principles and criticizing the progressive movement.  

Perdue has echoed his GOP Senate colleagues who say they will support the Republican presidential nominee, regardless of who that is. Trump is the current front-runner, winning 10 of the 15 GOP contests so far, including Georgia.  

Perdue told reporters Wednesday that he would "absolutely" support Trump if he becomes the nominee.  

"I said that this week repeatedly, and I'm going to do everything I can to make sure we don't have four more years doubling down on the direction we are now," Perdue said.  

Perdue did not agree with fellow freshman Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., who said he will support a third candidate if Trump is the nominee.  

"We've sort of seen that in history, right?" Perdue said. "And the outcome doesn't favor conservative sides, so I have some difficulty with that."  

Contact Lesniewski at nielslesniewski@cqrollcall.com and follow him on Twitter at @nielslesniewski

Contact Bowman at  bridgetbowman@rollcall.com  and follow her on Twitter at @bridgetbhc .

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