Sen. Saxby Chambliss told Georgia voters Sunday that he is a needed firewall to an unchecked Democratic agenda in Washington.
Mr. Chambliss, a Republican, faces off with Democrat Jim Martin on Tuesday in the runoff for Georgia’s U.S. Senate seat, one of two still undecided after the November voting. If Mr. Martin wins the runoff and the recount in Minnesota tips the race in favor of Democrat Al Franken, Democrats will have a filibuster-proof 60-seat majority.
“I don’t know that we will be able to stop all of it, but Georgians are going to be able to count on my vote to do what’s right for them,” Mr. Chambliss said on “Fox News Sunday.” He said the race would not be a referendum on President-elect Barack Obama.
Mr. Martin, in stops Sunday in Columbus and Norcross, accused Mr. Chambliss of ignoring the needs of the middle class and veterans, both suffering in the faltering economy. The Vietnam veteran received a boost from Claudia Kennedy, the Army’s first female three-star general.
Mr. Martin also has criticized Mr. Chambliss for remarks he made in July where he said, “We may not be in a recession. I don’t know what that term means.”
His campaign also has pointed to a Senate Armed Services Committee meeting Mr. Chambliss missed in the run-up to the Iraq war because he was in Florida at a fundraiser.
“We feel great about our campaign,” Mr. Martin said in a telephone interview. “People want someone to go to Washington who is an independent voice, but who will also work with our president.”
Both men are using the last 48 hours of campaigning to energize their base and increase its turnout: Mr. Chambliss by enlisting Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and Mr. Martin by activating black voters.
Mrs. Palin, who was Sen. John McCain’s vice-presidential running mate, was to arrive in Georgia for a private fundraiser Sunday night, followed by public rallies across the state Monday. Mr. McCain carried the state with 52 percent of the vote on Nov. 4.
The runoff was the result of neither candidate garnering the required 50 percent of the vote the first time around, owing in part to a third-party candidate.
The Chambliss campaign is hoping Mrs. Palin energizes the conservative base in a race that will hinge on turnout.
“Runoffs always fall off from a general election, and it’s about getting our people back to the polls,” Mr. Chambliss told Fox.
It will be Mrs. Palin’s first return to the campaign trail since her failed vice-presidential bid. She is widely thought to be interested in a 2012 run for president.
Mr. Martin planned to campaign with prominent Georgia Democrats, including Rep. John Lewis, as he sought to rekindle the strong showing by black voters in the general election. Mr. Martin planned to cap election eve campaigning with a Capitol rally with Atlanta rapper Ludacris.
The Martin camp is working to get black voters back to the polls. Black turnout in Georgia topped 30 percent in the general election with Mr. Obama on the ticket. It’s been only 23 percent in early voting for the Senate runoff.
Mr. Martin had invited Mr. Obama to campaign with him. The president-elect recorded a radio ad and automated phone calls but never came in person. Some 100 Obama field operatives flocked to the state to work on grass-roots efforts to get voters back to the polls.
Mrs. Palin is just the latest political luminary to enter the fray. It has also drawn Mr. McCain and Republican primary rivals Mike Huckabee, Rudolph W. Giuliani and Mitt Romney, as well as Democrats Al Gore and former President Bill Clinton.