Jeff Emanuel

Two of the GOP’s best chances for pickups in the House of Representatives this year are in Georgia, where two former Congressmen are embattled in races which are poised to go down to the wire.

In Georgia’s 12th Congressional District, where Max Burns is challenging incumbent Democrat Representative John Barrow, the most recent poll showed the candidates in a statistical dead heat with a week to go in the campaign.

This latest poll, conducted by Insider Advantage, shows Barrow with a three-point edge over Burns at 42% to 39%, a lead well within the 6-point margin of error. The telephone survey reached 310 likely voters, 19% of whom said that they were still undecided.

The newly-redrawn 12th district, which includes 22 counties in eastern Georgia – but no longer counts Athens-Clarke County, home of the University of Georgia and one of the bluest areas in the state, as a part, having replaced it with several more conservative, rural counties – should demographically favor Burns, who lost his seat to Barrow in 2004.

A spokesman for Barrow said that they had “always expected a close race,” and Burns’s campaign manager, calling the matchup “one of the most competitive races in the nation,” confirmed what we all knew -- that voter turnout, and Republican get out the vote efforts, would make or break the election for each candidate.

The polling data showing that Burns is in striking distance of Barrow was backed up by action on Monday, when President Bush made his second trip of the election season to Savannah to campaign for Burns -- something hardly ever done for Congressional candidates, and much less lost causes.

Another race Bush is hoping to influence with his second campaign visit to Georgia in as many months is the contest for GA-8, which pits former Congressman Mac Collins against Democrat incumbent Jim Marshall.

Marshall, a fairly conservative Democrat and Army veteran – both beneficial attributes, as his district includes Warner Robins Air Base – has led Collins from the beginning in polls, and until recently appeared poised to win reelection going away. However, the race has been tightening of late, to the point where Marshall’s campaign has felt the need to release internal polling to combat wide-ranging speculation that their months-long lead was shrinking – or even that the Democrat was trailing.

Jeff Emanuel

Jeff Emanuel, a Special Operations military veteran, is a Leadership fellow with the Center for International Trade and Security at the University of Georgia, where he also studies Classics. In addition, he is a contributing editor for conservative web log, and is a columnist for the Athens, GA Banner-Herald newspaper.

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