GeorgiaSenate 1stLd-Writethru 11-13

McCain returns to campaign for Senate colleague

Eds: UPDATES with event.


Associated Press Writer

ATLANTA (AP) — Republican John McCain implored Georgia voters Thursday to back Sen. Saxby Chambliss in next month’s runoff, warning that Democrats will increase taxes and cut defense spending and the GOP needs to strengthen its ranks.


"I didn’t think I’d be back on the campaign trail quite this early," McCain told some 1,500 people in his first political appearance since losing the presidency to Barack Obama last week. "But there is a lot at stake here. ... I’m asking you to go into battle one more time."

Chambliss failed to cross the 50 percent threshold and faces a Dec. 2 rematch with Democrat Jim Martin. Georgia’s election results were certified Thursday and the final tallies show Chambliss falling just short, with 49.8 percent of the vote. Martin earned 46.8 percent and Libertarian Allen Buckley, also in the race, pulled 3.4 percent.

His voice rising, McCain told the crowd that Chambliss, a first-term senator, "is doing what we Republicans should have done for eight years and that’s restrain spending." And in a commentary on his Election Day loss, the Arizona senator added, "We let spending get out of control and it cost us a lot of our conservative base."

McCain cited recent comments by Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., about possible cuts in military spending and alluded to Obama’s plan to raise taxes on families making more than $250,000 a year.

"We’re in two wars. We can’t cut defense spending," McCain said.

After his brief remarks, the former Republican presidential nominee stepped into the crowd to shake hands with the GOP faithful at the Cobb Energy Center. After the rally, McCain planned to attend a private fundraiser for Chambliss.

In addition to Georgia, Senate races in Minnesota and Alaska remain unresolved. Sen. Norm Coleman leads in Minnesota in a race headed to a statewide recount. Democrat Mark Begich took an 814-vote lead against Sen. Ted Stevens as votes were still being counted in Alaska. Not matter what the outcome, Senate Democrats would have 55 seats with two independents who caucus with the party.

For McCain, the appearance marked return to the political arena after his lost. In his first postelection interview on the "Tonight Show" earlier this week, McCain praised his running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, and did little to pass the blame for his resounding loss.


Democrats greeted McCain’s arrival in Georgia with an Internet spot reviving remarks the Arizona senator made in condemning a tough ad Chambliss used in his 2002 campaign against Democratic Sen. Max Cleland, a triple amputee wounded in Vietnam. The ad questioned Cleland’s national security credentials and flashed a picture of Osama bin Laden.

"I’ve never seen anything like that ad," McCain, a Vietnam prisoner of war, said in 2003. "Putting pictures of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden next to a picture of a man who left three limbs on the battlefield, it’s worse than disgraceful, it’s reprehensible."

Martin suggested McCain’s visit will have little impact.

"The issue is not between Jim Martin and John McCain, we’re both Vietnam veterans that’s not the issue," Martin told reporters. "The issue is Jim Martin vs Saxby Chambliss, Jim Martin’s approach to the economy vs. Saxby economics that’s got us in this terrible financial crisis."

Georgia’s last Senate runoff was in 1992 when Democratic Sen. Wyche Fowler earned more votes on the general election but went on to lose to Republican Paul Coverdell in a runoff.

What To Read Next
Get Local