So upset was Patricia Mock with Barack Obama’s election that she drove two hours to this middle Georgia town on Monday to rally against the president-elect.
“I’m scared to death,” said Mock, 65, a small-business owner from Rockdale County. “Obama’s going to put our country further in debt. He’s going to push a socialist agenda.” But she added, “Saxby Chambliss can stop him.”
Republicans across the country are keeping their fingers crossed and their wallets open for Chambliss, the Republican senator from Georgia who is favored by most political experts in a runoff election on Tuesday. A victory for Chambliss against his challenger, Jim Martin, would prevent Democrats from gaining a filibuster-proof, 60-seat majority in the Senate and limit Obama’s support in Congress.
It would also salve Republicans’ bruised egos after a disastrous election cycle.
“The race is certainly a higher priority for Republicans than Democrats,” said Charles S. Bullock III, a political scientist at the University of Georgia. “They’ve lost so much this year. They’re looking for a bright spot to end this election.”
That is one reason the party brought in Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska on Monday to fly across Georgia in a campaign-financed plane for rallies in four cities. Palin’s continued popularity in conservative states like this one made her a logical choice to be the closer in the campaign, intended to generate enthusiasm and a high Republican turnout on Tuesday.
“Losing an election doesn’t mean we have lost our way,” Palin said at a Chambliss rally here, before an exuberant crowd of 2,500. “If we are to lead again, we have lots of hard work ahead of us. Let it begin here tomorrow in Georgia.”
Although both parties have flooded Georgia with national strategists, speakers and volunteers, Republicans have outgunned Democrats in fundraising and advertising. They have also turned Georgia into a catwalk for their other stars, with visits from Sen. John McCain, former Gov. Mitt Romney of Massachusetts, former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani of New York.
The Democratic campaign has drawn from its A-list, too, bringing in former President Bill Clinton, former Vice President Al Gore and Donna Brazile, the political strategist. Obama has been notably absent from Georgia, although he did record automated telephone calls and radio commercials for Martin.
The race entered a runoff after no candidate won 50 percent of the vote in the general election, with a Libertarian candidate, Allen Buckley, receiving 3.4 percent. Chambliss did beat Martin by three percentage points, but his failure to get a clear majority was a surprising blow to a campaign that had earlier expected to coast to victory.
Chambliss was hobbled by a groundswell of support for Obama coupled with Chambliss’ unpopular vote for the Wall Street bailout. If Al Franken, the Democratic candidate for Senate in Minnesota, wins after a recount, then Georgia could provide the crucial 60th seat for Democrats.