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Anger at Washington could be reflected in Georgia vote
Barnes tries to distance himself from Obama as Democrats rank low in GNP poll
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When voters come to the polls to pick a new governor in November, they might bring in their anger about the economic stimulus plan or health care reform at the federal level.

In a poll commissioned by the Georgia Newspaper Partnership, 47 percent of respondents were less likely to vote for Democrats in local races due to actions by President Barack Obama's administration or the Democratic-controlled Congress.

Just 23 percent of those polled said they were more likely to vote for Democrats, and 25 percent said it would have no effect.

"I'm a dissatisfied person, I can guarantee you that," said Hardy Bagley, a resident of Hiawassee, who said national politics may affect his state votes. "The government's absolutely ruined this country completely. ... People up in Washington don't try to help anybody. We just need some help."

The poll was conducted this week by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research and surveyed 625 Georgians likely to vote in November's general election.

"Polling data shows that this is shaping up to be a dreadful year for Democrats," said Douglas Young, a political science professor at Gainesville State College in Oakwood. "Many pollsters are predicting that the Republicans will take back both legislative houses since the 1994 midterm. It seems like all Democrat candidates, even at the state level, are in a tough bind."

Although Democrat gubernatorial candidate Roy Barnes has been painted with the "RoyBama" adage, Barnes should stick to his more conservative side, Young said.

"Liberals cheered at him to get rid of the old state flag, but my goodness, he was another Zell Miller type of Democrat with tax cuts, ending tenure for K-12 teacher hires and ending social promotion," Young said. "He was tough on crime and even got an endorsement in 1998 from the National Rifle Association. How many Democrats running statewide can claim that?"

Unless Barnes changes from his past politics, Young sees the Democrat shaking the negative ties to Obama.

"Clearly Republicans are trying to link him to the unpopular presidency, but in reality Barnes is one of the most conservative Democrats in the nation," he said. "If Barnes gets out the facts about his gubernatorial record, it'll counter this charge that he is somehow a Georgia version of Obama. I don't see it as a credible charge."

Meredith Milby, 33, of Gainesville, said national politics won't affect her local decisions at all.

"I understand the difference between state and federal issues. Voters tend to oversimplify when they're concerned about one issue and might decide which party agrees with them and apply it across the board," she said.

"I tend to vote consistently with a party but like to think I understand the differences. I don't think Barnes and Obama are copies of each other. Barnes was governor before I ever heard of Obama."

Times staff writer Melissa Weinman contributed to this article.

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