- Associated Press - Thursday, October 30, 2014

ATLANTA (AP) - Georgia’s rough-and-tumble campaigns for governor and U.S. Senate are nearing the end - or at least the next round.

Republican Gov. Nathan Deal and Democratic challenger Jason Carter have new ads on the airwaves, as do Democrat Michelle Nunn and Republican David Perdue in the Senate race.

Two Arkansas politicians will visit Georgia on Friday, with former President Bill Clinton appearing in Atlanta on Nunn’s behalf, while Fox News host Mike Huckabee will make stops in south Georgia with Perdue. Friday is also the last day of early voting before Tuesday, when regular polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The major party candidates are trying to avoid runoffs; Libertarians in each race could get enough support to leave the top vote-getters shy of a majority. A runoff for governor would be Dec. 2. A Senate runoff would be Jan. 6.

The outcomes hold national significance. The Senate race will help determine which party controls the chamber for the final two years of the Obama administration, and if either Democrat wins, it will signal that Georgia could join North Carolina and Virginia as Southern presidential battlegrounds in 2016.

Here’s a look at the major candidates’ new ads and closing strategies:

DEAL

The Republican governor, 72, uses his closing ad to make a personal appeal.

“It’s an honor to serve as your governor. While they can be second-guessed, I’ve made the hard decisions,” Deal says directly to the camera, before listing accomplishments on the HOPE Scholarship, education funding and private sector job growth without tax hikes. The arguments address many of Carter’s criticisms of Deal. “My opponent’s false attacks? Camouflage for his four years of no accomplishment and no leadership,” Deal continues, before smiling and tossing out a concluding barb. “But that’s just Jason.”

Separately, Deal released ads that accused Carter of not supporting a proposed constitutional amendment capping the state income tax rate. Carter actually supports the cap, though Deal spokesman Brian Robinson said Carter abstained from a vote on the amendment in the state Senate. Robinson said the ad is “not up anywhere anymore.”

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CARTER

The Democratic state senator is continuing a bus tour themed “Georgia’s Ready,” which is also the theme of his closing ad. Carter, 39 and the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter, has promised to improve public education, jumpstart the economy and govern honestly. He’s turned each of the three into an attack on Deal, but his latest ad avoids any direct reference to the governor.

“Georgia is ready, right now, for a new direction,” Carter says in the ad. After noting his usual three priorities, he says, “If we can harness that energy that we’ve felt all across this state … we will have that bright future.”

Carter must get a strong African-American turnout while getting more white votes outside the metro area than Democratic presidential nominees have gotten in recent cycles. Carter’s tour stops in several smaller Georgia cities and towns, while his grandfather will headline weekend rallies in metro Atlanta.

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NUNN

Nunn’s closing ad sticks to her usual pitch emphasizing her work as a nonprofit executive and promising to be a pragmatic, “problem-solving” senator. The 47-year-old daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn speaks for the duration of the ad, saying that her career has been about “living out her faith by trying to help others” and insisting that “America is better than our Congress right now.”

As Nunn speaks, she is shown talking to several middle-aged and older voters, most of them white, nearly all of them men. Nunn needs as narrow a gap as possible among white voters and male voters.

The ad doesn’t mention Perdue. But don’t think Democrats aren’t still on the attack, with Nunn and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee still airing ads this week hammering Perdue as a wealthy corporate executive who mistreated workers and sent jobs overseas.

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PERDUE

The Republican’s last ad opens with his familiar tactic of associating Nunn with President Barack Obama, who lost Georgia twice. “Can you trust President Barack Obama and the Washington politicians to deal with the problems we face?” an announcer says, as photos of Obama and Nunn appear on screen. After references to debt, terrorism, unemployment and the Ebola virus, the 64-year-old Perdue appears. “If you’re as frustrated as I am by the dysfunction in Washington and believe we can do better,” he says, “then I’d really appreciate your trust and your vote.”

Like Nunn’s, Perdue’s ad offers a subtle clue about his potential weaknesses. The spot closes with Perdue sitting on a porch talking to three white women. Polls suggest Perdue isn’t as strong among white women as Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney was in 2012.

The two candidates meet Sunday, along with Libertarian Amanda Swafford, for their final televised debate.

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Christina A. Cassidy and Kathleen Foody contributed to this report. Follow Barrow on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BillBarrowAP .

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