ATLANTA — He tapped voter anger to emerge from a primary field full of experienced Republican officeholders. A political outsider, he had a name most voters recognized, a business background fused to a populist message and, given that he was funding his own campaign, a self-avowed freedom from lobbyists and special interests.
Looking back now, it’s no wonder that David Perdue was someone Donald Trump wanted to meet.
It was around Memorial Day of 2014 and Perdue was flying high, having advanced to a runoff as one of the top two finishers in Georgia’s GOP senate primary. When Sam Nunberg, Donald Trump’s top political adviser at the time, called and invited him to New York City, Perdue said yes. Over the course of the year, Trump contributed more than $1 million to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, but it was Perdue’s race that captured his interest—an interest that was less about 2014 than 2016.
In Perdue’s Senate strategy, Trump saw the makings of a White House run of his own. And two years later, Trump has used that blueprint not only to capture the South, but to steal the region away from Ted Cruz on his way to the lead of the GOP primary.
“We knew then Trump was going to run for president, and this was a race we could watch,” said Nunberg, who left Trump’s team in August of last year but is still supporting his candidacy. “In terms of all the themes, the competition, this was the race Mr. Trump followed closely, as did his team, myself and Roger [Stone]. It had the most similarities and parallels to what he wanted to do.”
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