There’s a thriller brew­ing

The Covington News - - Opinion greed is good? - Tom Craw­ford

All through the spring and sum­mer months, when­ever he would dis­cuss his up­com­ing Se­nate race with re­porters, Saxby Cham­b­liss would al­ways re­mind them: “We know that this is go­ing to be a very tough race.”

I tended to pay tion to that dis­claimer, es­pe­cially when it looked like Cham­b­liss’ Demo­cratic op­po­nent would be DeKalb County CEO Ver­non Jones, a can­di­date with a very trou­bled per­sonal his­tory.

Even when it turned out that Cham­b­liss would be fac­ing Jim Martin, the po­lit­i­cal ex­perts both in­side and out­side Ge­or­gia classified the race as safely in the bag for the Repub­li­can in­cum­bent. With all that money in his bank ac­count and an op­po­nent who’s not ex­actly the most charis­matic can­di­date, who would have thought oth­er­wise?

As it turns out, Cham­b­liss may have had a much bet­ter feel for the state’s po­lit­i­cal land­scape than any of the so-called ex­perts and an­a­lysts. With less than a month to go be­fore elec­tion day, the un­beat­able in­cum­bent sud­denly looks more and more vul­ner­a­ble.

lit­tle at­ten-

Ever since the fi­nan­cial ser­vices in­dus­try blew up in midSeptem­ber, Cham­b­liss’ wide lead in the polls has been steadily shrink­ing. Where he once was ahead of Martin by 17 or 18 points, the race is nar­row­ing to a dead heat.

The most re­cent polls re­leased last week came from two Ge­or­gia firms run by Repub­li­can con­sul­tants. Th­ese are not polling firms that are go­ing to skew their num­bers to make a Demo­cratic can­di­date look stronger than he re­ally is. And yet, th­ese polls from GOP firms showed that Cham­b­liss was ei­ther ahead of Martin by only 47-44 per­cent, or tied with Martin at 45-45 per­cent.

It doesn’t get much closer than that.

Cham­b­liss has been a fa­vorite tar­get of Ge­or­gia Democrats be­cause of the nas­ti­ness of the 2002 Se­nate race be­tween him and Max Cle­land. Many Democrats will never for­give Cham­b­liss for run­ning a con­tro­ver­sial TV spot that linked Cle­land, a triple-am­putee Viet­nam War vet­eran, to Osama bin Laden and Sad­dam Hus­sein.

Demo­cratic an­i­mos­ity to­wards Cham­b­liss was al­ways go­ing to be a fac­tor in his re­elec­tion race. Cham­b­liss’ big­ger prob­lem is that he is also stir­ring up a lot of anger among Repub­li­cans be­cause of his sup­port last year of an im­mi­gra­tion re­form mea­sure, his work with Demo­cratic se­na­tors on an en­ergy bill this sum­mer, and his vote for the bill to bail out Wall Street.

Be­cause of th­ese un­pop­u­lar stands, Cham­b­liss is now be­ing vi­ciously crit­i­cized by party ac­tivists on GOP Web sites. Some anony­mous Repub­li­cans even set up a new Web site, FireSaxby. com, that has stepped up the per­sonal at­tacks on the se­na­tor.

Here’s a sam­pling of some re­cent com­ments from Repub­li­can blog­gers:

“Saxby is not only to­tally in­ept, he is a patho­log­i­cal liar as well.”

“Un­til he re­mem­bers he is elected as a Repub­li­can by Repub­li­cans and he starts vot­ing as a fis­cal con­ser­va­tive, my sup­port is gone!”

“Ap­peals to per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity are lost on a hack like Saxby, who takes none him­self and wants us to blame the Dems, the bor­row­ers, the gov­ern­ment, or ANY­BODY ex­cept him. Fire him!”

“Saxby did WHAT­EVER Bush wanted him to be. He’s a good, obe­di­ent lit­tle boy.”

“Se­na­tor Cham­b­liss gave us 700 bil­lion rea­sons to choose an­other man to rep­re­sent us . . . he opted to pass the bur­den of fail­ing com­pa­nies on you, your fam­ily, your chil­dren.”

“His votes for spending bills that has put our na­tional debt, deficits at record lev­els, the sup­port of the amnesty bill, & his vote against S-CHIP is enough for me to vote for a demo­crat for the first time since Sam Nunn back in 1990.”

With friends like th­ese, who needs en­e­mies? It looks like Cham­b­liss needs to do some fence-mend­ing within his own par­ti­san base, and quickly, if he wants to go back to Wash­ing­ton for an­other term.

The po­lit­i­cal pub­li­ca­tions that hand­i­cap the Se­nate races have been tak­ing note of Cham­b­liss’ plung­ing poll num­bers. Where once they ranked this seat as “safely Repub­li­can,” they are now down­grad­ing it to “leans Repub­li­can” and they may soon move it into the “tossup” cat­e­gory.

The late Al Ci­raldo, one of the best bas­ket­ball an­nounc­ers to ever grace the state’s ra­dio waves, would have put it this way: “Hang on to your hats, broth­ers and sis­ters. We’ve got a thriller brew­ing here.”

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