Georgia gears up for Senate run-off

With celebrity campaigners working on both sides, incumbent Saxby Chambliss clings to a lead over his Democratic challenger.

Published December 1, 2008 8:55PM (EST)

On Tuesday, the last potentially pivotal election of 2008 will happen in Georgia. Both Republicans and Democrats have been devoting quite a bit of effort to the race, a runoff between incumbent Republican Saxby Chambliss and Democratic challenger Jim Martin. Visitors have included Bill Clinton, Al Gore, John McCain and, today, Ludacris and Sarah Palin. (Campaigning with Palin was the woman who beat her out for Miss Alaska in 1984 -- she's now a Georgia resident.)

The president-elect has been conspicuously absent. The smart money says that Chambliss is a slight favorite, so the likely explanation is that Barack Obama doesn't want to risk his political capital on a losing candidate.

According to the latest Public Policy Poll, Chambliss leads challenger Jim Martin with 53 percent to Martin's 46. While special elections are notoriously unpredictable and Obama volunteers and organizers have headed to Georgia to help out, there’s little reason to guess that Martin will pull off an upset. At, Sean Quinn notes that as of Monday morning, 22.5 percent of early voters in the special election were African-American, compared to 34.5 percent in the general election. As you might imagine, black turnout works in Martin's favor; this decrease helps Chambliss.

By Gabriel Winant

Gabriel Winant is a graduate student in American history at Yale.

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