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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Peach State Showdown Draws McCain

Bit of a donnybrook shaping up in the Peach State today, as John McCain rolls in to campaign for Saxby Chambliss and against Jim Martin in the Senate run-off. Much of the fun will be in seeing how McCain, who will be appearing at a rally at 4:30 with most of the top GA Republicans, renounces his 2002 blast of Chambliss’s shameful attack against Sen. Max Cleland:

“I’d never seen anything like Saxby’s political ad. Putting pictures of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden next to the picture of a man who left three limbs on the battlefield — it’s worse than disgraceful. It’s reprehensible.”

But that was the straight-talking McCain of yesteryear, before he made his faustian bargain with the knee-jerk reactionaries for his ’08 run. The DSCC has a 50-second web-only ad to welcome McCain and remind internet-active voters of McCain’s earlier views on Chambliss, and a DSCC 5-day TV ad buy is expected to begin in GA today. But, as Atlanta Journal Constitution “political insider” columnist Jim Galloway reminds his readers, McCain owes Chambliss for his endorsement of McCain’s run for President, when polls showed GA Republicans preferred Huckabee.
It’s basically a three point-race that will be determined by turnout in the December 2nd run-off. CNN has an interesting map of the counties that went for Martin and Chambliss, indicating that Martin’s hopes are pegged to GOTV in four GA metro areas, Atlanta, Savannah, Columbus and Augusta. CNN‘s exit poll demographic breakdown of the voters for Martin and Chambliss shows Martin has a huge advantage among Black voters, a 12 point edge with women (and an 11-point shortfall with men), a 10-point edge with younger voters and breaks even with Chambliss among seniors. Chambliss lead among GA’s white voters “with no college” is 70-26 percent.
Issue-wise, it looks like Martin’s biggest weakness is among those who identify the economy as the “most important issue,” who give him only a 2-point lead over Chambliss. He needs to hit harder on Chambliss’s support of Bush economic policies, not just rat-a-tat-tat about taxes. No surprise that the fat cats are digging deep for Chambliss, as the Wall St. Journal reports today. Chambliss has been Bush’s bellhop on economic issues, as well as an errand boy for big oil. Martin needs such punchy memes to generate more heat.
There’s also a stronger case to be made about Chambliss’s awful record on veterans’ issues and low ratings from several vets’ groups. So far, Martin’s ads have been pretty tame on this topic. Instead of the “failed our veterans” rhetoric, the ads of Martin and the DSCC should call it a “betrayal,” for some much-needed water-cooler buzz.
Chambliss’s secret weapon in the run-off may be Republican Secretary of State Karen Handel, who AJC columnist Cynthia Tucker has called “the Katherine Harris of this campaign” and a “partisan martinet.” who “did every thing she could to try to keep as many new voters as possible from casting a ballot.” More on Handel’s games here and GA’s disturbingly large “undervote” here.
Dems should pull out all the stops and mobilize a monster turnout in the four aforementioned GA cities. It would also be good if Sam Nunn and the Carters would make some appearances and/or do an ad for Martin to help take a little bite out of Chambliss’s edge with white voters. Martin could also use some more dough, to match Saxby’s ad avalanche on GA TV. This one is winnable, and you can help right here.

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