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Sam Stein Headshot

Will Obama Go To Georgia?

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With John McCain set to hit the trail for Georgia Sen. Saxby Chambliss' runoff election campaign, the question on the minds of Democrats in the state is when or if Barack Obama will follow suit.

Jim Martin, the Democratic challenger in Georgia, was able to keep Chambliss under the 50 percent mark during the first round of voting. Since then, however, the GOP has redoubled its efforts, sending or promising to send party luminaries like Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Sarah Palin and McCain to campaign on Chambliss' behalf.

And while the Obama team already has a strong infrastructure in the state and is dispatching more volunteers, Democratic operatives in Georgia are concerned that the president-elect won't be coming himself.

"Why isn't Obama coming to Georgia?" one source asked. "He could possibly come right up until election day -- but McCain's actually here today."

Asked if the president-elect would make the trip, the Obama team did not immediately return a request for comment.

There are, clearly, areas where he could help and hurt himself by jumping into the Georgia runoff ring.

Alan Abramowitz, a political science professor at Emory University, notes that, with the presidential election over, Obama is now trying "to broaden his appeal and act presidential. So he is not in campaign mode anymore, whereas for McCain it doesn't matter." Moreover, if Obama were to show up and Martin lost, it could send a poor message.

"This is a group that has never been comfortable with hard-hitting politics," said a Democrat helping the Martin campaign, "and I would bet they don't want to risk political capital on seat #58."

On the flip side, Obama could earn even more veneration among Democrats if he were to help pull Martin across the finish line. In the process he would demonstrate a dedication to, or sense of, party.

Certainly, Abramowitz says, Obama could make a difference. Nearly four million people voted in Georgia on November 4. That number is expected to drop to approximately 1.5 million when the runoff occurs on December 2. The campaign best equipped at getting people to the polls, consequently, stands the best shot of winning.

"I still think it is possible that he may end up coming down," said Abramowitz. "And from a strategic standpoint it makes sense for him to come down, if he does, at the end. It would help stimulate and increase Democratic turnout."

As such, a few sources said they wouldn't be surprised if Obama ultimately came to Georgia -- just closer to the actual runoff date.