Keeping the heat on in Georgia

KEEPING THE HEAT ON IN GEORGIA…. They’re still counting the votes in Alaska, and headed towards a recount in Minnesota, but there’s still one more important statewide race left before we close the book on the 2008 election cycle: the run-off contest in Georgia.

For Democrats, this is an uphill challenge. Incumbent Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R) received more than 49% of the vote on Election Day, coming just short of avoiding the runoff. What’s more, this is a state John McCain won by five points, and where turnout is expected to be far less than it was on Nov. 4. For Democrat Jim Martin, it’s a tough hurdle to clear.

It’s what makes this ad so interesting. Georgia may be a conservative “red” state, but Martin’s new ad emphasizes Chambliss’ opposition to Obama’s economic plan — twice. As Eric Kleefeld noted, “The rub here is that this runoff is similar in many ways to a special election, which is all about mobilizing the base. And Martin sees here an opportunity to capitalize on Obama’s honeymoon period in order to get Democratic voters out to the polls for a second time.”

For their part, Republicans are investing heavily in this contest — it may be the only thing stopping Dems from having a 60-seat majority — and everyone from McCain to Palin to Romney to Huckabee has been anxious to help rally the Republican troops in support of Chambliss.

Does Martin have a realistic shot? Don’t rule him out just yet. Markos reported yesterday on a new Research 2000 poll showing Chambliss with a three-point lead, 49% to 46%, which makes the race “winnable” for Democrats. Meanwhile, Obama is unlikely to campaign in Georgia before the run-off, but the president-elect has reportedly dispatched his Ohio field team to Georgia to give Martin a hand, and the DSCC is making its move, as well.

Stay tuned.