ATLANTA—I arrived here yesterday to cover the U.S. Senate campaign of Libertarian Alan Buckley and the final campaign jaunt of Bob Barr, who'll be heading down to Savannah to close out the election. That's the presidential campaign I've been closest to, so I can report that the bulk of its effort right now is on getting votes in this, his home state. Months ago they purchased contact lists from his old suburban Atlanta district, and a web-based call center has been working them to the point where the campaign thinks it's pulling 5 percent of Republicans there—and who knows how many independents and Democrats. But local party chair Daniel Adams fretted that the fast tightening of Georgia polls (Obama is closer to McCain here than McCain is close to Obama in Pennsylvania) is convincing conservatives not to "waste" their ballot.
Adams is incredibly bearish about McCain's chances overall. Last night, en route to the final three-way Senate debate that included Libertarian Alan Buckley, he pointed out the Obama stickers on Honda Elements and other nice, suburban cars driven by white people in Cobb County (Bush 25 points over Kerry) and discoursed on all the neighborhoods that were thick with Bush signs in 2004, and bare today. "You've got the people who got their signs right after the primaries ended and nothing since then," Adams said. "This election ended when McCain voted for the bailout."
A pro-bailout vote has rattled the Senate race, too. At the debate Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss, who'd been coasting to re-election last month, struggled to convince reporters that "we'll win without a runoff" on Tuesday. (In Georgia an election that doesn't see the winner get more than 50 percent of the vote goes to a runoff four weeks later.)
Whether or not the bailout anger is directed at the right people, I'm pleased that the election is closing on something sort of important. TV ads here are a barrage of bailout and tax talk (I saw two Obama ads on McCain's tax policies in one hour of local TV news). Unlike apparently everyone else in America I haven't seen the 11th hour (11th hour and 59th minute, really) 527 hit on Jeremiah Wright. The Politico's Jonathan Martin asks if conservatives should have "played the Wright card" earlier. If McCain suddenly surges to victory because swarms of independents heard about Wright the first time this weekend, I think we'll say he should have. It seems like a truly distant possibility down here.