Georgia Democrat Zell Miller throws his support behind Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss
GAINESVILLE - Georgia's maverick Democrat Zell Miller threw his support behind Sen. Saxby Chambliss Wednesday saying he "could well be the last man standing between a far, far left liberal agenda sailing through the Senate."
A former Georgia senator and governor, Miller remains a Democrat but has lined up behind prominent Georgia Republicans in recent years. Chambliss is locked in a Dec. 2 U.S. Senate runoff with Democrat Jim Martin. The race could help decide whether Democrats win enough seats to block Republican filibusters.
Miller warned a gathering of Republicans in Gainesville that Senate Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has Martin "warming up in the bullpen."
"This is the big one," Miller said of the Georgia runoff.
Miller is used to speaking up for Republicans. He was the keynote speaker at the GOP convention in 2004, accusing his own party of being weak on terrorism and national security.
Miller backed Chambliss' then opponent, Democratic Sen. Max Cleland, in the 2002 race.
Georgia's runoff is hurtling into the homestretch with less than a week left. Both campaigns will take a break for Thanksgiving before their final weekend on the trail.
Nationally, the Georgia race is pivotal to how much clout Democrats and President-elect Barack Obama will have in Washington. Democrats are two votes shy of the 60 needed for a filibuster-proof majority. Georgia is one and the other is in Minnesota where a recount is under way in the excruciatingly tight contest between Republican Norm Coleman and Democrat Al Franken.
With the stakes high, a parade of political bigwigs has been traipsing through Georgia to rev up interest in the race.
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the Republican vice presidential candidate, will swing through on Monday with Chambliss.
Her running mate, Arizona Sen. John McCain, stumped with Chambliss earlier this month. Other members of the Republican presidential field have also appeared with Chambliss, including Mike Huckabee, Mitt Romney and Rudolph Giuliani.
Martin has had former President Bill Clinton and his Vice President Al Gore appear on his behalf.
Gov. Sonny Perdue on Wednesday at the same Gainesville gathering urged Republicans to mobilize their friends and neighbors.
He said if they don't vote, "shame on them and shame on you for not making sure they're there."
Early voting in Georgia ends Wednesday. Turnout so far has been tepid, with 236,992 ballots cast at last count, according to the Secretary of State’s office. That's roughly 4 percent of the state's 5.8 million registered voters.
Chambliss said he hopes his voters will reverse the trend of low turnout for a runoff and help him defeat Martin.