June 17, 2008
Albany - In recent Presidential elections, candidates never really campaigned in Georgia because it was a given that the state would vote Republican. That may not be the case this year. Barack Obama believes he has a real chance here.
A few things are different this year. Barack Obama may bring new voters and a record number of Georgia voters to the polls. Plus there's now a wild card in this race. A Georgian is running as a Libertarian and some believe he could take votes away from John McCain.
Whether you're for Senator John McCain or Senator Barack Obama, one thing is for sure. This presidential race is getting huge attention. "It's been fascinating," said Political Science Professor Roger Marietta.
Marietta has been watching the race unfold. On one side, there's the war veteran Senator. "McCain has a lot of good things about him. There's a lot of veterans in the state," said Marietta.
And then there's the Senator who's touting change. However, only one can win the majority vote in Georgia. Historically the state has voted Republican. The last Democratic winner was Bill Clinton in 1992.
"Bush won in 2000 and 2004, and the margin has been growing," said Marietta. With this election things could change. Although McCain has backing from Republican Georgia lawmakers like Governor Sonny Purdue and Senator Saxby Chambliss, he's gotten lukewarm backing from the GOP here. Then add to the mix a former Congressman by the name of Bob Barr.
"He's camped out on the Libertarian ticket plus he obviously has support from his old Congressional district in North Georgia and people know him," said Marietta.
Marietta says Barr could get up to 15 percent of the Georgia vote. So with these circumstances, could Obama win in Georgia? "I think the answer is yes because right now there's a slim margin of 10 percent," said Marietta.
Obama has increased registered voter numbers across the country, especially the young and African-Americans. Even here in Dougherty County, numbers are up. "Oh yeah. We've got quite a few more. That's the highest we've had in a long, long time of people registered to vote," said Dougherty County Election Supervisor Carolyn Hatcher.
There are thousands of unreached voters out there that both candidates will be reaching out to over the next few months. "I hope that with this election and what it means to Georgia, that we'll have a lot of interest," said Marietta.
The outcome could come down to those untapped voters, namely the untapped Black voters. According to census numbers, Georgia had 500,000 African-Americans who were not registered to vote in 2004. The Obama camp already has staffers in Georgia working to get those voters registered.
McCain also plans to campaign in Georgia as part of his Southeastern strategy. Some political experts say it could come down to money and Obama has more money to spend in battleground states.