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The war of the veteran

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POSTED: October 2, 2008 5:00 a.m.

Too bad about Jim Martin. The Democrat may have had a slim chance of unseating incumbent Sen. Saxby Chambliss in this year’s election.
Sarah Palin and Barack Obama may have punctured his last hopes of victory in the Nov. 4 election. Palin’s surprise candidacy for vice president has changed the dynamics of the presidential race and forced Obama’s brain trust to rethink its strategy.
Forget about winning Georgia; that was one of the Obama team’s first reorganization decisions. Turning Georgia from red to blue just wasn’t worth the gazillion dollars it would have cost. Besides, there was no guarantee that it could be done, no matter how much was spent. Georgia looks like a Republican state from here to eternity, or as long as it maintains a white majority.
The quality of the candidates doesn’t matter much. The GOP tag is what counts. If you don’t believe it, just take a look at the Republican-controlled Georgia House. The GOP House leadership looks and acts like a bunch of reform-school fugitives.
 But back to Martin vs. Chambliss. Bless his heart, Martin is trying to make this a race between a military veteran and a non-vet. Martin served with distinction in the Vietnam War. Chambliss didn’t go. He had a hurt knee and a fistful of student deferments.
Once upon a time, a clever campaign director could have used the candidates’ vet/non-vet status to carve out victory for the military man. That time may have passed. The veterans from World War II are dying out fast. And the Korean and Vietnam vets are mostly aging warriors now. Look at McCain at 72.
In any event, Martin is running a veterans’ campaign, seizing on Ms. Palin’s declaration: “There’s only one candidate who has fought for America, and that’s John McCain.”
Martin is counting on help from a group of Georgians who will never vote for Chambliss because of smear advertising he used six years ago against incumbent Max Cleland, a triple-amputee Vietnam veteran.
In addition, despite the Obama campaign running out on him, Martin is running a surprisingly energetic race, though Chambliss remains the heavy favorite.
If Chambliss had faced a substantial primary opponent, he might have had a tough fight.
Georgia’s senior senator is still dogged for his support of a controversial immigration bill that would have opened the door to citizenship for millions of illegal aliens. And who doesn’t remember him posing for photos with liberal icon Ted Kennedy to show his support for the bill? Of course, he later backed away from the measure, but the damage was done. His credibility would never be the same among the anti-immigration crowd.
Then there’s Chambliss’ son, who has been a lobbyist for the commodities trading industry at a time when Dad happened to be chairman or ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, the committee with jurisdiction over commodities trading.
Chambliss is one of the few statewide elected officials in America who is still willingly joined at the hip to President Bush. Even in Georgia Bush has now hit bottom in his approval rating.
Despite his unfailingly loyal service to the Bush administration, Chambliss has little bacon to show for his efforts. Georgia lost multiple military installations during the last round of closings, which occurred on his watch. We appear likely to fail in efforts to land several major federal projects, including the national biodefense facility that the University of Georgia has doggedly pursued.
Nevertheless, Saxby looks like a winner on Election Day. He has too many advantages. He is a Republican; he looks the part of a senator; and at the end of the day, not many folks give a damn whether he’s a veteran or not.
Correction: In last Sunday’s column, we erroneously reported that Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin had sold a state-owned plane on eBay. She did not.

You can reach Shipp at P.O. Box 2520, Kennesaw, GA 30156, e-mail: shipp1@bellsouth.net, or Web address: billshipponline.com.

 

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