AUGUSTA — This election has seen a battalion of political celebs visit Georgia. Two years after our state was little more than an ATM for national pols, we have seen presidential candidates past (Bill Clinton and John McCain), future (Chris Christie, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Paul Ryan) and maybe both (Hillary Clinton and Mike Huckabee).
But the most striking presence was that of the man to whom GOP Senate candidate David Perdue is most often compared: Mitt Romney.
The two men shared a stage here on Wednesday, one who ran directly against Barack Obama and one who is running now to keep Obama from having another Democratic vote in the Senate.
They also share the experience of having successful business careers, only to watch as their political foes picked apart — and, in some cases, grossly distorted — their private-sector records.
That’s the negative side of running for office with a business background, and it keeps a lot of businesspeople from winning. So what’s the upside? Why should voters weigh business experience as a positive? Romney and Perdue offered some reasons in a joint interview after the Augusta rally.
“If one of the challenges that we face, as we currently do,” Romney said, “is millions of people dropping out of the work force, it’s helpful to have some people who have actually been in … the private sector, who know why businesses fail, why businesses succeed, who have probably had some experience at both.
“That’s a meaningful input into the legislative process.”
Perdue said executive experience makes him well-suited to work in a consensus-driven legislative environment.
“People say, well, you’re a CEO, you’re used to getting your own way, you can’t make a difference in the Senate,” he recounted. “Well, that’s just not the case. In business, you have customers, employees, stockholders, bondholders, analysts, wives, husbands — I mean, everybody’s got an opinion, right? And everybody’s watching.
“But I think what you have to do is decide on a direction, get a consensus with a better idea than what you have going right now, and then … bring all your resources together, and move everybody toward the goal. And hold people accountable.
“That’s what’s not happening in Washington. There’s a lack of sense of urgency.”
Some of the political sniping at men like Romney and Perdue reflects misunderstanding — some of it plain disingenuousness — about the realities of competition. That, Romney suggested, is the main thing politicians who haven’t worked extensively in business don’t get about the economy.
“No states disappear, or cities disappear, because of competitors,” Romney noted. “And so some people who spent their entire life in the public sector don’t understand that America is competing right now” with other nations in education, technology and innovation.
“We must win those competitions,” he said, “if America is going to continue to have the leadership role we’ve long had, and have the prosperity and freedom we’ve come to expect.”
Unfortunately, Perdue added, “we’ve taken that for granted the last 30 years. The rest of the world is catching up.”
That reality doesn’t make for warm and fuzzy campaign ads about getting along with everyone. Which is precisely why Georgia needs a senator who gets it.