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As Iowa votes, Georgia waits

Today’s caucus could weed out presidential hopefuls

POSTED: January 14, 2008 5:02 a.m.
When Georgia voters go to the polls on Feb. 5, the field of candidates could be smaller, following tonight’s Iowa caucus and the first in the nation primary in New Hampshire on Tuesday.

"I expect some candidates aren’t going to make it much past Iowa," said Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia. "Those people who don’t make it probably didn’t have much support in Georgia."

A number of Georgia officials, including Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle of Chestnut Mountain and U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal of Gainesville, have stayed out of the presidential endorsement sweepstakes. However, a number of Hall County officials, including state Reps. James Mills and Doug Collins, Sen. Lee Hawkins and Sheriff Steve Cronic, have endorsed former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson, a Republican candidate for president.

State Rep. Carl Rogers, R-Gainesville, said Wednesday that he, too, was staying out of the presidential endorsements.

Deal was toying with support of Thompson at one time.

"I was one of those who was hanging back and hoping that Fred Thompson might be the guy that rode in on the white horse," Deal said. "Fred has disappointed me from the standpoint of engaging in the issues at the level I thought he needed to do."

Deal said he also likes former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, but falls out with him on illegal immigration.

"I worked with him closely in the last Congress on a Medicaid reform bill," Deal said. "But some of his stands, initially, on the immigration problems don’t coincide with my point of view."

Huckabee’s Georgia supporters include Gwinnett businessman Virgil Williams, owner of the lease on Lake Lanier Islands.

The latest poll in Iowa by the Des Moines Register showed Huckabee leading former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, 32 percent to 26 percent. Thompson is in a tie for fourth place with U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, both men polled 9 percent.

Romney has prominent Hall County support including former Republican National Committeewoman Dot Burns and Gainesville businessman and civic leader James A. "Jim" Walters.

Paul Stanley, chairman of the Hall County Republican Party, said tonight’s Iowa caucuses will have little effect on Georgia’s primary.

"I don’t think Georgia voters will be swayed by what 4 million people in Iowa do," Stanley said.

If as predicted, some candidates end their bids for the White House, their names will remain on the Georgia ballots, which have already been printed.

Hall County Democratic Party chairman Abb Hayes said the activity of his party’s leading candidates, U.S. Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and former U.S. Sen. John Edwards has started to pick up in Georgia with candidates establishing campaign offices and dispatching staff members to the state.

"How well these candidates do in Iowa and New Hampshire may effect how they well they are able to do in other places, like Georgia," Hayes said.

Before the "Super Tuesday" balloting in Georgia and 19 other states, voters in South Carolina will go to the polls on two separate dates, Republicans vote Jan. 19; Democrats, Jan. 26, which is the same day Florida voters will go to the polls for that state’s primaries for both parties.

Bullock said because of bigger states on Super Tuesday, it is doubtful that candidates will stump in Georgia the way they have in places like Iowa and New Hampshire.

"We’re going to be eclipsed by California, New York and Illinois, who are all voting on the same day," Bullock said. "I don’t think we’re going to see candidates showing up in Gainesville, walking up and down the street and stopping off for breakfast."

Bullock said that the media bounce of leading candidates could be viewed by Georgia’s voters, many of them still undecided.

"In Georgia, we still have a little over a month before we vote and a lot of Georgia voters have not begun to focus on the upcoming contest," Bullock said.



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