A parade of political heavyweights came to Gainesville Wednesday to stump for U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.
Gov. Sonny Perdue, Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle, and former governor and U.S. Sen. Zell Miller spoke at a barbecue luncheon at the Gainesville Civic Center.
Miller, who served with Chambliss in the Senate, called his former colleague’s runoff with Democrat Jim Martin one of the most important in his half century of politics.
"I’ve been coming to political rallies in this civic center for 50 years," Miller said. "But I have never come to one where the outcome was as important as is the outcome of this race that we’re in right now."
Miller is a Democrat but has
endorsed Republicans in recent years. He said Chambliss "could well be the last man standing between a far, far left liberal agenda sailing through the Senate."
The Georgia race has drawn national attention as Democrats are within two votes of the 60-vote majority that can cut off debate on issues. A recount also is under way in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race where Republican incumbent Norm Coleman held a 215-vote majority over Democrat Al Franken in unofficial returns from the Nov. 4 election.
Chambliss, who also addressed the crowd, acknowledged the election of President-Elect Barack Obama, and said "I pray for him every day."
The senior senator went on to say that when Obama was right he would support him, but then went through a litany of conservative issues and said if Obama was on the other side he would oppose the new president "every step of the way."
The senator roiled the partisan crowd with the mention of the name of U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass. He quoted Frank as saying with a Democratic administration and Congress, including the possible 60-vote majority in the Senate, the first act would be to cut the defense budget by 25 percent.
"As long as Saxby Chambliss is living and breathing and in the United States Senate, that’s going to be done over my dead body," said Chambliss, who serves on the Senate Armed Services committee.
Perdue said he is predicting a win for Chambliss.
"I think people across Georgia understand the significance of having Saxby Chambliss in the U.S. Senate, and I think there is more grass-roots energy in the runoff than I saw in the general election," Perdue said.
The campaign stop, the only event of the day for Chambliss, was in friendly territory. Hall County voters selected Chambliss over Martin by a better than 2 to 1 margin.
"The early voting in Hall County has been very good and, for the most part, those are good conservative people that we think are going to be voting for us," Chambliss said after the program.
The Dec. 2 runoff follows the Nov. 4 general election where Chambliss was the top vote-getter but failed to get the required 50 percent over Martin and Libertarian Allen Buckley.
The four-week contest between Martin and Chambliss has been heavily driven by television advertising on both sides.
In addition, the campaign has brought out political stars on both sides, including former President Bill Clinton for Martin and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the GOP vice-presidential nominee, who is scheduled to campaign with Chambliss on Monday at several locations across Georgia.