Matt Towery

ATLANTA -- For president-elect Barack Obama, the time has arrived to make his first big decision. And no, it's not if Hillary will be in the cabinet.

Obama used every possible political trick in the book to both secure his nomination and then trounce John McCain in the general election. Who can blame him? Politics is a contact sport.

And for the last few weeks it appeared that Democrats were far enough away from their goal of a 60-member, filibuster-proof U.S. Senate that there would be nothing gained by the president-elect getting his hands dirty and actively campaigning in the only U.S. Senate runoff in the nation -- that of incumbent Republican Saxby Chambliss vs. Democratic challenger Jim Martin in Georgia. But now circumstances have altered the political landscape, and Obama must make a choice.

Alaska's longtime senator-turned-recently-convicted-lawmaker, Ted Stevens, has been defeated by his Democratic rival. Meanwhile in Minnesota, comedian-turned-Senate candidate Al Franken has magically whittled a 700-plus lead by incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman down to a precarious few hundred vote lead with a contentious recount still to come.

That means that former Georgia Democratic state Rep. Jim Martin could potentially supply the Democrats the magic 60th seat in the Senate.

I served with Jim in the Georgia legislature in my prior life as a partisan elected official. We were from separate parties but got along fine. He is a good man and has a sharp mind. He's also fairly liberal and is not a particularly magnetic candidate. He won't win without direct help from Barack Obama.

Meanwhile, Sen. Saxby Chambliss, who I have also known for years, is a super nice guy who has a laid-back style. Unfortunately, it was too laid back in his general election battle. Just as our InsiderAdvantage/Poll Position survey suggested would be the case, he was unable to crack the required 50 percent plus one vote rule required to win outright in Georgia.

Here are some key components of this race that most in the media don't know.

First, the good news for the Republicans. Chambliss has his act together for the runoff. The various Republican entities allowed to contribute to electing him have raised nearly $4 million devoted to absentee and early voter efforts -- something that was totally ignored by the Chambliss campaign in the Nov. 4 contest. Over 1.1 million voters, all of whom vote Republican in Georgia, have been mailed absentee ballot info or reminders that they vote early. And in areas where early voting is occurring, the demographic makeup of the voters seems to favor Chambliss.

Matt Towery

Matt Towery is a former National Republican legislator of the year and author of Powerchicks: How Women Will Dominate America.
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