DECATUR, Ga. (AP) — Michelle Nunn's difficult political balancing act as she seeks Georgia's open U.S. Senate seat was on full display at a rally Monday alongside civil rights icon John Lewis.
Calling Nunn a "smart, gifted" force who would help "move Georgia into the 21st century," the Atlanta congressman roused several hundred black voters in the Democratic stronghold of south DeKalb County.
"Now, look, almost 50 years ago, I gave a little blood on that bridge in Selma, Alabama," Lewis boomed, recalling Bloody Sunday in 1965. "I almost died for the right to vote. Some of my friends died. We're still alive, so you have to go out there and vote like you never voted before."
The crowd roared with the kind of enthusiasm Nunn needs for black voters to wield enough influence on Nov. 4. Yet even with a strong minority turnout, she needs a decent slice of the white vote — perhaps as much as a third — to defeat Republican David Perdue.
Nunn's challenge is that a third politician plays a starring role in this contest: President Barack Obama. And the nation's first black president has two different images in this state that twice opted for his Republican opponent. He's beloved among black voters, while many whites — who are likely to cast about 6 out of 10 votes — disapprove of him, even distrust or detest him.
Perdue knows as much, using most his television ads and virtually every public statement to lambaste Obama and call Nunn a certain "rubber stamp" for his "failed agenda."
Nunn pitches herself as a "pragmatic problem-solver," talking more about her work as CEO of Republican former President George H.W. Bush's Points of Light foundation than about Obama.
"I've spent maybe 45 minutes of my life with President Obama," she said in a debate Sunday night.
On Monday, with hundreds of Obama loyalists in front her, she didn't mention him. She offered a litany of policies and values she'd fight for: "raising the minimum wage ... preserve Social Security and Medicare ... universal access to Pre-K ... and affordable pathway to college." But absent from the list was anything to do with health care or the president's signature law that has come to bear his name.
Linda Corley, a 63-year-old retiree who lives nearby, said it's "overwhelming" to watch "the president absorb this pummeling" from Republicans. And she lamented the resulting "dance that Michelle has to do."
But, Corley added, "It's worth giving her an opportunity, and then we'll keep pushing her, keep her on that straight and narrow."
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