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GA-Senate: Tight as a Tick

Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), left, speaks while former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney looks on at a rally, Nov. 21, 2008 in Savannah, Georgia. (Photo -- Stephen Morton/Getty Images)

The Georgia Senate runoff between Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R) and former state Rep. Jim Martin (D) appears headed to a close finish, a narrowness that is ramping up the pressure on President-elect Barack Obama to make a visit in the state sometime between now and Dec. 2.

Three new polls released on Monday suggest the race is tight. A survey done by Mark Mellman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee showed Chambliss at 48 percent and Martin at 46 percent; an Insider Advantage poll conducted for Politico put the race at 50 percent for Chambliss and 47 percent for Martin; and a Public Policy Polling survey put the race at Chambliss 52 percent and Martin 46 percent.

And, the Chambliss campaign announced this morning that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the party's vice presidential nominee, will make a stop in the state on Monday -- the day before the runoff election.

"I was thrilled when I got the call that Governor Palin would be able to make the trip to Georgia to campaign with me the day before the runoff election," Chambliss said in a statement this morning. "Julianne and I are honored that she would take the time to travel to Georgia to tell everyone how important this election is and I know that she will receive an enthusiastic welcome everywhere we go."

Palin is the latest high profile national figure to campaign in the Peach State. Former Govs. Mitt Romney (Mass.) and Mike Huckabee (Ark.), both potential 2012 candidates for the GOP presidential nomination, have been in the state in recent days, as have former President Bill Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore.

The Obama transition team has remained silent on whether the president-elect will stump in the state for Martin although conventional wisdom is that he won't. The Obama transition operation did not return an email seeking comment on the matter.

Democratic strategists closely watching the race believe that Martin faces long odds -- despite the close poll numbers -- and even if Obama visited the state, the Democratic Senate nominee could lose. But, they also note, that Martin's only possible path to victory includes an Obama visit, which would drive excitement and intensity within the base of the party -- particularly among African Americans -- that Martin will struggle to re-create otherwise.

Further complicating matters for Obama is the fact that if Martin did happen to pull off the upset, Democrats would control 59 Senate seats with one race -- the recount in Minnesota between Sen. Norm Coleman (R) and entertainer Al Franken (D) -- still pending.

If Obama doesn't go to Georgia and Franken pulls off a win (a real possibility), there will be all sorts of second-guessing as to why the president-elect -- at the height of his popularity -- didn't risk some political capital to put his party at a filibuster-proof 60 seat majority in the 111th Congress.

It's the classic rock-and-a-hard-place decision. Obama and his team would almost certainly prefer that he not look too political before coming into office but they are sure to face mounting pressure from some within the party to try to put Martin over the top if the polls remain tight.

Should he go? Or stay away? The comments section awaits.

By Chris Cillizza  |  November 25, 2008; 11:20 AM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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I find it interesting that Republicans in Georgia think that folks will vote Republican primarily for religious reasons. What happened to the separation of church and state?

Posted by: sdexnorva | November 28, 2008 9:23 AM | Report abuse

Mike Huckabee is busier than any of these politicians with his Fox show, book tour, numerous speaking engagements AND his position as political analyst on FOX. It is great that he has taken the time out of his very busy schedule to help Chambliss financially thru huckpac as well as going to Ga. to campaign for him and having his huckpac supporters make calls to get out the vote for him.

Posted by: nrobyar | November 28, 2008 1:37 AM | Report abuse

Georgia will stay a red state for a very long time. I would be very surprised to see Saxby lose. I have spoken to several Republicans and they are getting out to early vote and will be there on the 2nd. We understand the importance of this vote. This is the Bible belt folks, like it or not, always will be. We don't vote for those who do not uphold our moral beliefs, like partial birth abortion, which by the way Martin does. I think it is very strange that so many people thought that since we have a huge black population here that Obama would win the state hands down and now Martin! I have several friends of many colors that did not vote for Obama nor or they voting for Martin, for reasons of their own but I can assure you it involves their religous convictions.

Posted by: 24Savannah | November 26, 2008 7:15 PM | Report abuse

I think we're still a few years from most any Dem winning statewide in a Southern state that doesn't have an outlying legacy of Clinton (Arkansas) or Easley/Perdue (North Carolina).

The combination of social factors (gay marriage initiatives, most notably) and racial demographics mean that it's four to eight years before a Dem can compete in the TX/LA/MS/GA/SC Deep South -- the maximum Dem vote (Landrieu notably excluded), even with a huge Afr-Am. vote, is probably 48% until then. See John Sharp in the TX Lt. Gov. race, where he got maximum cross-over votes in 1998 against far-right now-Gov. Rick Perry.

Posted by: austinpost | November 26, 2008 4:24 AM | Report abuse





The economy tanked because the Wall Street insiders realized that Obama was going to win, impose high taxes, ballon bloated government programs and the Wall Street insiders decided to get out NOW.

The prospect of Obama winning caused the economic crisis.

Then the economic crises made it even more probable that Obama would win, like a spiral downward toward HELL.

Obama is a disaster - the very idea of Obama in the White House caused a stock market crash.

The guy is an affirmative action disaster. What are you people thinking????





Posted by: 37thandOStreetRules | November 25, 2008 11:08 PM | Report abuse

I think Obama should wait a few days and then do a rally for Martin on the Monday before the election. Why not stomp on the Bimbo once again.

Posted by: russ_broadway | November 25, 2008 10:42 PM | Report abuse

Obama should stay away. A run off election is really a contest of "Get out the Vote."

Obama has the more passionate voters and a concentrated GOTV organization in Georgia's population centers. Obama's ground game is better than Chambliss'.

Chambliss' strength is is the rural areas and the Atlanta suburbs. Lull them to sleep. An Obama appearance will just serve to energize Chambliss' base. Obama's base and ground game are already energized.

Y'all are wrong - Jim Martin can very well win this because Obama's ground game is going to get the voters out in Atlanta, Columbus, Augusta, Macon, Albany, and Savannah. It's easier to turn out votes in urban areas than it is in rural areas.

I would say that the race is 50/50. Don't let anyone tell you that Jim Martin cannot win this. But he has a better chance is Obama stays away. Don't get rural south Georgia excited. Low key it - and let the GOTV ground game in the urban areas win the election.

Posted by: TomEdison | November 25, 2008 10:37 PM | Report abuse

"I [am] honored that she would take the time to travel to Georgia..."

I'm sure the people of Alaska are thrilled she could take the time, as well.

And I say Obama should stay out of it. He's going to be President, not DSCC chair. He's better off focusing on governing rather than doing things that will raise the animus of Senate Republicans who's grudging support he'll need if he's going to govern in a centrist, bi-partisan way. The Dems only need 60 seats if they plan on doing everything along party line votes. And if that's their plan, they can start kissing 60 seats good-bye because they will lose the moderate to conservative seats they've taken from Republicans in the last two election cycles.

Posted by: cjenns | November 25, 2008 8:53 PM | Report abuse

He will want to consider the possibility of what happens if he has a barely fillibuster proof senate. Does he really gain more power in that scenario. He would need to have every Democrat in line on every issue. At least if he is one vote short he has an excuse for crossing party lines for Republican support. If he had 60, would he be able to bend the party his way or would the party bend him their way. Also, note that any Republican Fillibuster at 59 would be so thin, that they would need perfect unity in their purpose. My guess is that Martin will close this gap, but come up short. My instinct tells me that Obama supporters are still energized, while Republican are less so.

Posted by: thoughtchallenge | November 25, 2008 6:24 PM | Report abuse

In response to all the Filibuster comments below, here's my two cents: Nothing creates more partisan fighting than judical appointments for federal courts. For that reason alone, the 60 senators make a difference.

Posted by: drkatz73 | November 25, 2008 5:37 PM | Report abuse

Dems need to get the African American vote out, but not at Mr. Obama's expense. Congressman Bishop and other Georgian African American leaders should be leading the way.

Posted by: drkatz73 | November 25, 2008 5:33 PM | Report abuse

I can't believe we're still hung up on talking about 60 votes. Even if Martin wins, that 60 votes includes Lieberman (CT) and conservative D's like Nelson (NE), Lincoln, Salazar, etc. What makes people think that Lieberman is always going to go with the Ds to prevent a filibuster, especially on foreign policy? And if it is a reasonable bill, why can't the Ds pick off Snowe, Collins, or Specter? Or even Corker or McCain?

That said, I would be happy to see Chambliss lose. But BHO has better things to do with his time than campaign for Martin, who is likely to lose anyways as has been pointed out by other posters.

Posted by: mnteng | November 25, 2008 5:32 PM | Report abuse

As a loyal Georgia Democratic who is both rooting and working for a Martin win, I still have to say I hope Barack Obama stays away ... Though he has the political capital, I sincerely hope he saves it all up for the change I know he is going to bring this country as soon as he takes office

Posted by: kdemko | November 25, 2008 5:21 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Optimyst. Do not go to GA, BHO.

Posted by: mark_in_austin | November 25, 2008 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Chambliss and Imperial Sugar.

Chambliss recently came under scrutiny regarding the investigation of a Savannah based sugar refinery that exploded on Feb. 7, 2008. Chambliss was accused of acting as a de-facto representative of Imperial Sugar and "harassing" families of the victims of the explosion to discourage them from suing the company. When Savannah attorney Mark Tate subpoenaed Chambliss to testify in the case, Chambliss claimed immunity.

When asked about the case during an interview in Waycross, GA. on November 20, 2008, Chambliss put his hand over the camera and told the questioner "you can take it away now".

Posted by: toritto | November 25, 2008 3:02 PM | Report abuse

Clarence Saxby Chambliss is as vile as they come.

In the 1960s, during the Vietnam War, Chambliss received five student deferments while attending the University of Georgia and the University of Tennessee College of Law.

Then he ran for Senate against Max Cleland, a decorated Vietnam vet who left 3 limbs on the battlefield.

Chambliss ran an attack ad calling Cleland soft on terrorism and including a pic of Bin Laden and Saddam in the ad.

Even McCain called the ad represensible. Chuck Hegel noted that the attack was "beyond offensive to me".

Come on Georgia! Show a little class and decency. Vote this scumbag out! Even the GOP hates him.

Posted by: toritto | November 25, 2008 2:58 PM | Report abuse

Sarah Palin's participation in the campaign should be a huge help -- for Jim Martin!

Posted by: koolkat_1960 | November 25, 2008 2:54 PM | Report abuse

Any elected official, who supported little Bush over the last eight years and is now seeking re-election, is taking the voters for fools. Any voter, who falls for such a snake oil peddling sales person is nothing less than just that and is also a full blown card carrying member of the Fool Me Ad Nauseam Crowd. Senator Chambliss is asking voters to keep placing their bets on an eight year losing horse, the GOP. Has he no shame? Would he advise his sons/daughters to keep betting on a horse that’s cost them a fortune already? I bet not. People’s IRAs, 401Ks, home equities, annuities, jobs, feelings of security, just to name a few, are all in the tank under a GOP administration. How on earth can anyone, given these setbacks, ask the voters to continue to risk their and their children’s welfare on the same folks, under whose leadership or lack thereof, such dire adverse conditions occurred? I see absolutely no evidence of morality, love of fellowman or even love of country in anyone, who could ask such a thing. It’s ungodly and repugnantly reprehensible to do so.

Posted by: vmonroe_valnesio | November 25, 2008 2:07 PM | Report abuse

I think ralph058 is on to something with his post about going to Georgia to meet with President Carter and, as an aside, mentioning that hey, there's an election next week and Georgians need to set a great example for the nation by coming out to vote!

Posted by: kind671 | November 25, 2008 2:04 PM | Report abuse

It seems to me that the best approach is to make a strong and hard play for Snowe and Collins. They have not been all that comfortable with a lot of Republican rhetoric over the years and really are on the fringe of the Republican party. A number of "democrats" jumped to the Republican Party in the 90's, perhaps its time for some of the moderate republicans to jump the other way.

(I find it interesting that neither Snowe nor Collins' names came up when the Republican's were looking for a VP candidate. Both are far more qualified than Gov. Palin - and neither were ever mentioned...)

Posted by: dcraven925 | November 25, 2008 1:14 PM | Report abuse



Starting to wonder who's pushing this line.

Let's give the Old South a chance to get used to the idea of a President Obama before political operatives put strategy above common sense.

BUT WILL THE ELECTION EVEN MATTER? Not as long as government-supported extrajudicial "vigilante injustice" squads are "community/gang stalking" American citizens, making a mockery of the rule of law:


Posted by: scrivener50 | November 25, 2008 1:10 PM | Report abuse

It's sad to see the Washington Post spreading the fiction of a "filibuster-proof majority". There is no such thing. Cloture-votes rarely break down completely along party lines. One or two more senators in the Democratic caucus would make cloture a bit more likely (depending on the issue) but having 60 seats in the caucus is not a magic cure-all. If the Dems fail to get 60 seats, some cloture votes will succeed with the help of a few Republicans. If they succeed, some cloture votes will fail with the help of a few Democrats.

This is shoddy journalism. The job of the news media is to inform the public, not invent fictional goals and crises to keep people reading. We don't need another horserace - people are more concerned about the economy.

Posted by: SandraL | November 25, 2008 1:06 PM | Report abuse

It's not a close call here outside the beltway. He's president-elect, of ALL the people, during a crisis. His partisan days are over for now. He should stay out of this race and continue to build his support with the people, which will be more important than that one incremental seat. I say this fervently hoping for a Martin victory. But there are other ways to get 60 votes without 60 democrats.

Posted by: optimyst | November 25, 2008 1:03 PM | Report abuse

President-elect Obama should go. A filibuster proof Senate is one of the few ways to guarantee that the gridlock is broken. After the SMEAR campaign against a true hero, Max Cleland, Saxby Chambliss deserves to lose at any cost. I wonder how John McCain can look at himself in the mirror. And when you consider that Palin can't even pardon a turkey without messing up, it's no wonder she supports Chambliss.

Posted by: johnb1359 | November 25, 2008 1:01 PM | Report abuse

As a Modern Whig, I would rather our elected officials place an emphasis on actually "leading" instead of being dragged into partisan spats. While Obama is a politician, displaying bi-partisan leadership can go a long way toward moving us along in a positive and beneficial direction. I say keep Obama out of partisan politics for now and let's hold on to the actual leadership -- whether you agree with policy or not -- for as long as it holds (few months, maybe?)

Posted by: WhigParty | November 25, 2008 12:53 PM | Report abuse

As leader of the party Obama should go and do whatever he can to help.

It's funny to see Palin's continue press tour, she's given more interviews in the last two weeks than she had in the three months she ran. My favorite was the turkey slaughter.

Posted by: PatrickNYC1 | November 25, 2008 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Obama has already said he was going to confer with all living presidents. What better way than to have a meeting with Carter in Atlanta followed by a brief announcement about what was said at a rally.

Low political capital. High gain.

Posted by: ralph058 | November 25, 2008 12:30 PM | Report abuse

He (Obama) needs to stay in "governing" mode. I know he is not technically governing, but he is trying to project that appearance with all those "Office of the President Elect" placards, and delving back into politics ... people will not want to see that.

And, if Martin loses (which is likely, regardless of an Obama appearance), it takes a lot of the shine off his win.

In addition, although 60 dems would be great, it is hardly a lock on stopping filibusters ... many Senators just do what they do. Also, I think on main parts of the agenda, they will still be able to count on support from the remain moderate Rs (like Specter and Snowe and Murray), and will be looking to build some level of consensus regardless of whether they have 59 or 60 seats.

So, bottom line, the risk-benefit breaks in favor of Obama staying out of Georgia.

Posted by: MShake | November 25, 2008 12:29 PM | Report abuse

If Martin wins, he follows the party. If Chambliss wins, he barters his vote to the party in power. Thus Obama should secure Chambliss' loyalty now in exchange for staying out of the race. Then it's a win-win for Obama.

The veto-proof majority is a very tempting prospect, but one can lose too much by reaching just a little too far.

Posted by: Whys | November 25, 2008 12:28 PM | Report abuse

You are absolutely right, it's a shame how Chambliss treated Sen Max Cleland, a real war hero. We have to ramp up our base to turn out the vote for Jim Martin on Dec 2, president elect Obama cannot sit this one out.

Posted by: yog2541 | November 25, 2008 12:25 PM | Report abuse

Sarah "Bimbo" Palin is campaigning for Chambliss? How poetic. One wacko trying to help another wacko. She is the kiss of death to anybody she tries to "help"..

Posted by: rsampson02 | November 25, 2008 12:24 PM | Report abuse

He should not go. Martin act like he did not want to be associated with Obama in the beginning. Now he wants to ride the wave of change. I would like to see the Dems get the sixty seats, but I want them to be senators with convictions.

Posted by: kgills7 | November 25, 2008 12:20 PM | Report abuse

I doubt that an Obama visit would be enough to tilt the scales. Even with a massive AA turnout, he still lost GA. He should just make some top staff and his fundraising juggernaut available and maybe cut some ads. Obama has bigger fish to fry at the moment.

Besides, it's a risk he doesn't have to take and which will yield little or no advantages. I'm not sure if 60 is anything more than symbolic. It assumes that the Democrats are a homogeneous party that will constantly vote along party lines. I don't see too many possible votes to break a filibuster for which moderate dems would be on board but for which it would be impossible to persuade one or two moderate Republicans to go along. It'll depend on the issue being discussed on the Senate floor, but as someone else mentioned, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins look like the obvious go-to Republicans. Don't count out McCain either, his bi-partisan image has been tarnished during the campaign, he'll be looking to restore some of it.

Posted by: CohtR | November 25, 2008 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Make sure she knows it GEORGIA in the south of the United States (of AMERICA) and NOT Georgia over there by Russia.....!)

Posted by: TOMHERE | November 25, 2008 12:18 PM | Report abuse

Sarah's one last hurrah... in the Presidential/Vice-Presidential arena... it is hoped... unless she VASTLY improves her command of the facts: with four years of tutoring and drilling, who knows, she may surprise the world with new found competence. What could inspire her more than a second chance. It's often what a lot of us need to excel in an endeavor. Yours sincerely, Daryl Atamanyk

Posted by: DarylAtamanyk | November 25, 2008 12:10 PM | Report abuse

I agree 100% with mikem1. However, Obama might not want to risk getting involved and Martin loosing. That would be his first "defeat" as a pres-elect. If money is the issue, then attending a fundraiser for Martin (which could be in GA or any other state) would be a good choice for Obama. There is no question that he can outraise the Republicans.

It should be interesting & I'm looking forward to seeing the returns.

Posted by: cyberfool | November 25, 2008 12:08 PM | Report abuse

While people in the media love a horse race because that keeps up reader interest, the reality is that this is not "tight as a tick", as the headline implies. Stop turning no-news polls into news! You try to cover yourself by mentioning in a paragraph that Democratic strategists think the odds are long, but your headline implies otherwise. While I'd love for Martin to win, the reality is that GA is a Republican state, Chambliss has consistently been ahead, though marginally ("tightening" implies it's a horse race...). But he's ahead. If you get 50.00000000001 you've won. He'll win, unfortunately.

Posted by: realist18 | November 25, 2008 12:05 PM | Report abuse

IF he does go, it should be on election day, it should be announced by Friday to get his supporters excited.

Posted by: sjxylib | November 25, 2008 12:04 PM | Report abuse

After Chambliss's smearing of former senator and disabled VietNam war vet Max Cleland, I hope that sob loses. He doesn't deserve to be in the Senate. It's the epitome of Republican hypocrisy: we love our military men unless they're democrats or moderates - then we smear them

Posted by: mikem1 | November 25, 2008 12:00 PM | Report abuse

I don't really understand why Obama wouldn't go. The benefit to him of a larger Democratic majority in the Senate would seem to outweigh the costs. First, I don't buy the argument that he doesn't want to be seen as "partisan." The very partisan elections were not even a month ago - the American people have a short attention span, but not that short. Second, if Obama doesn't go, he'll be hurt whether Martin wins (why was Obama too scared to jump on board?) or loses (why didn't Obama do his part for the Democrats?).

Posted by: Ryan7 | November 25, 2008 11:56 AM | Report abuse

this race isn't really ThAT close. Chambliss has been ahead by at least 3 points. GA is a republican state. I doubt an Obama visit would really be worth 3 points. Besides, we all know the craven republicans will attack an Obama visit saying he is abandoning his post in a time of economic crisis.

Better to have 59 and the occasional republican crossover - Susan Collins or Olympia Snowe should be treated very well. Heck, maybe the Dems should even try to get them to cross over and switch parties. Since Maine is a democratic state, that seems like a much better route to filibuster-proof 60 than a Dem from GA who may not be able to join the Dems on some issues anyway.

Posted by: freedom41 | November 25, 2008 11:52 AM | Report abuse

He should go. He ran as a Democrat, he's going to govern as a Democrat.

Posted by: eidolon | November 25, 2008 11:48 AM | Report abuse

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