ATLANTA — Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss enlisted Sarah Palin to rally conservatives today while Democratic challenger Jim Martin pushes to activate black voters, as they grapple for advantage in a runoff Tuesday that will shape Democrats' hold on power in Washington.
Palin, the Alaska governor who was John McCain's vice presidential running mate, was to arrive in Georgia for a private fundraiser Sunday night, followed by rallies across the state today. McCain carried the state with 52 percent of the vote on Nov. 4.
Martin planned to campaign with prominent Georgia Democrats, including U.S. Rep. John Lewis, as he sought to rekindle the strong showing by African-American voters in the general election that President-elect Obama sparked.
Neither Chambliss nor Martin crossed the 50 percent threshold in the general election. That race included a libertarian, Allen Buckley, who drew 3.4 percent. Almost one month after the vote, there has been no end to the mudslinging, with fresh attacks ads flooding the airwaves through Thanksgiving.
The runoff is critical because Senate Democrats are just two votes shy of the 60 needed to block GOP filibusters. Georgia is one of two unresolved contests. The other is in Minnesota, where a recount is under way in the race between Republican Sen. Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken.
In a national broadcast appearance Sunday, Chambliss stuck to his campaign message: He is a needed firewall to a Democratic agenda moving unchecked in Washington.
"I don't know that we will be able to stop all of it, but Georgians are going to be able to count on my vote to do what's right for them," Chambliss said on Fox News Sunday. He said the race would not be a referendum on Obama.
The Chambliss campaign is hoping that Palin energizes the conservative base in a race that will hinge on turnout.
"Runoffs always fall off from a general election and it's about getting our people back to the polls," Chambliss said.
It will be Palin's first return to the campaign trail since her failed vice presidential bid. She is widely rumored to be interested in a run for president in 2012.
Palin is just the latest political luminary to enter the fray in Georgia's heated runoff contest. It has also drawn McCain and GOP rivals Mike Huckabee, Rudy Giuliani and Mitt Romney, as well as Democrats Al Gore and former President Bill Clinton.