By Samantha Hayes in Washington, D.C.
Barack Obama's visit to Georgia signals an aggressive campaign strategy. The Democrats want to break the Republican hold on the South, and they believe this may be the state where it happens.
At a private fundraiser last night Obama talked about putting Georgia into play. In the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Obama is quoted as saying, "We're going to have a whole bunch of different ways we can win, because we're going to compete here in Georgia, we're going to compete in North Carolina and Virginia. We are going to transform this political map."
The issue that might make that transformation possible is the economy. After Monday night's private fund-raisers, Obama spoke to a screaming crowd gathered at a high school in suburban Powder Springs today. He spoke for about 15 minutes and focused on economic issues and specifically bankruptcy laws. Obama promised to help seniors and military families, two groups that may be partial to his rival, John McCain. While the South, including Georgia, has been voting Republican in recent years, Obama has been finding support among some conservatives who are frustrated with the GOP. They've been dubbed, "Obamacons." Obama has also been making a noticeable move toward the political center in an effort to compete against McCain for independent voters. And there may be one more political strategy at play. If Obama loses Ohio, Pennsylvania, or Florida to McCain in November, he'll need emerging swing states like Georgia, Virginia, Colorado, and New Mexico in his column.
But turning the deep Red Republican state of Georgia to a Democratic blue will still be very difficult. Georgia's two Republican Senators, Johnny Isakson, and Saxby Chambliss, don't believe their state will go to Obama, but don't want to take any chances either. Chambliss has complimented Obama on his primary campaign and signing up a large number of new voters, but says now is the time to remind their base, "the most loyal GOP voters," that turnout will be imperative in the general election.
That's where Georgia may show its wild card. Hard-line GOP loyalists don't really care for McCain, even though in the end they may vote for him. On the other hand, they might vote on principle and support the Libertarian candidate and former Georgia Congressman, Bob Barr -- a scenario that plays to Obama's benefit.
So while it's difficult to predict, and we know better than to do that anyway, Georgia may be one state well worth watching in the general election.