- Associated Press - Sunday, November 2, 2014

ATLANTA (AP) - Georgia voters heard familiar arguments in the final U.S. Senate debate before polls open, with Republican David Perdue repeatedly trying to tie Michelle Nunn to President Barack Obama and Nunn countering that Perdue is intent on continuing the dysfunction he blames on Democrats.

“President Barack Obama said his policies are on the ballot, and in Georgia those policies go by the name of Michelle Nunn,” Perdue said several times. More than a dozen times, he used an attack featured in many Republican TV ads for this midterm election, calling Nunn a “rubber stamp” for the president who lost Georgia twice.

Nunn turned the attack back to one of her main arguments that she’s a “common-sense” moderate capable of representing GOP-leaning Georgia, which twice opted for Obama’s Republican opponents.

“Of course, we know that David can work with his fellow Republicans,” Nunn said. “The question is can he work with Democrats?” At various points, she mockingly told Perdue he sounds like he’s “running against the president.”

“You’re running against me, David,” Nunn said.

Libertarian Amanda Swafford, meanwhile, said both of her opponents would be “rubber stamps” for perpetuating “big government.”

The three meet on Tuesday’s ballot, with polls suggesting a tight race between Nunn and Perdue in a matchup that will help determine which major party controls the Senate in January. Republicans appear to be on the cusp of winning the six additional seats they need, though a Nunn victory would mean Democrats pick up at least one seat. Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss is retiring.

If neither Perdue nor Nunn gets a majority, they would advance to a Jan. 6 runoff, scheduled just as the new Congress begins its work.

Both candidates avoided some specific answers. Perdue again sidestepped whether he supports having a federal minimum wage at all. Nunn wants to it raised to $10.10 from the current $7.25.

Perdue argued that would cost “one out of three” minimum-wage workers; Nunn noted that states with higher minimum wage have lower unemployment rates than Georgia.

Nunn continued her refusal to say whether she would have voted for Obama’s health care overhaul when it cleared the Senate in 2010. Perdue said it’s more evidence that she’s a waiting “rubber stamp” for Obama; Nunn explained that she wants to tweak the law, without “going backward” by removing protections for individuals with existing health conditions.

Perdue also used the one-hour debate, televised by Atlanta’s WSB-TV, to deny that he ever “outsourced” American jobs, despite a widely circulated deposition in which he told lawyers he “spent most of his career doing that.” Nunn has used the deposition as the basis for multiple television ads lambasting the Republican.

As the two candidates sparred on immigration, Perdue said he opposes “amnesty,” the label he uses to describe the overhaul that has passed the Senate but cannot pass the Republican-run House. Nunn, who supports the Senate bill, noted that it cleared the Senate with support from Republicans, including Sen. John McCain, who recently campaigned with Perdue in Georgia.

Pressed by Nunn, Perdue said he agrees that women should be paid equally to men, but said Democrats’ proposed gender-pay bills that Nunn supports would only “help plaintiffs’ attorneys.” He also used the exchange to frame Nunn as what he considered a White House lackey.

Her reply: “Every time that we actually have the opportunity to talk about a substantive issue like this, you move it to a conversation in which you decide you are running, again, against the president.”

Polls will be open Tuesday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

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Follow Barrow on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BillBarrowAP.

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