PERRY, Ga. — Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin lent her rock-star status to U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss this afternoon in a state fly-around that GOP strategists hope will help put Chambliss over the top in Tuesday's Senate runoff against Democrat Jim Martin.
Palin was greeted by cheers of "Sarah! Sarah!" in what is decidedly Republican country: south Houston County. More than 2,700 people RSVP'd for the rally at the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter, one of several appearances for the duo today across Georgia.
Meanwhile, Martin is mustering his own strength for Tuesday's runoff, appearing in Macon this afternoon with veterans and in Atlanta this evening with rap star Ludacris.
But this afternoon, in Perry, the energy belonged to the GOP. The crowd packed in close, shoulder to shoulder for, as state Sen. Ross Tolleson called Palin, "one of the most exciting women in U.S. politics."
Palin hit on the same point that's been a drumbeat from Republicans since Chambliss narrowly missed the 50 percent vote margin he needed to beat Martin outright last month. Vote for Chambliss, or the Democrats may end up with 60 seats in Congress. That's a potentially filibuster-proof margin that would give Democrats added power in a Congress already tilted strongly to the left.
"It isn't just about your state," Palin told the crowd. "It is about the entire United States of America and our future. ... The eyes of our nation are on this stage. We all have Georgia on our minds."
Palin said GOP leaders understand that there has been disillusionment and frustration with the party, particularly over its less-than-ideal track record of late in the core values of frugality.
Palin said the party is being rebuilt, and re-electing Chambliss is part of the process.
"Let us reclaim our good name," Palin said.
The crowd broke into a chant of "Saxby! Saxby!
"Saxby!" Palin said after the noise died down. "You betcha!"
The crowd gave up another cheer.
For its part, the Martin campaign continued to hit the veterans issue Monday, drawing comparisons between Martin, a Vietnam veteran, and Chambliss.
"When she ran for Vice President, Sarah Palin often praised John McCain by saying, 'There is only one man in this race who has ever really fought for you,'" the Martin campaign said in a news release. "But as she campaigns across Georgia today, will she repeat the same praise for Jim Martin? While Martin -- a Vietnam veteran -- has made veterans' issues a central part of his vision for changing Washington, Saxby Chambliss -- who deferred from Vietnam six times -- has failed to take care of America's veterans and men and women in uniform during his decade and a half in Washington."