Georgia Democrats have unleashed a new weapon in their campaign to recapture the Governor's Mansion after eight years of Republican control: President Obama.
Republicans, meanwhile, are giddy at the thought of their opponents advancing the GOP strategy of tying every Democratic candidate to a president who, overall, is quite unpopular in Georgia.
Obama has recorded an automated phone message urging Georgia Democrats to turn out and vote Nov. 2. His picture is also included in a mail piece showing up at Democrats' homes. Both were paid for by the Democratic Party of Georgia in an effort to rally the party's base.
Obama "has a very good favorable rating with Democrats in Georgia, and, quite frankly, if we're going to turn out Democrats, which we've got to do, then I think he is the best person to do so," said Tharon Johnson, a Democratic strategist who has worked for Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and U.S. Rep. John Lewis, an Atlanta Democrat.
Still, it's a delicate dance for Democrats and their candidates, including Roy Barnes, the former governor seeking a return to power.
A poll conducted by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research Inc. for The Augusta Chronicle and the Georgia Newspaper Partnership in September showed only 36 percent of likely voters said they approve of Obama's job performance.
But, among Democrats in general, and blacks in particular, Obama continues to get high marks. Seventy-nine percent of Democrats approve of his job performance, as do 88 percent of black voters.
The converse, however, is equally stark. The poll found that 89 percent of Republicans and 62 percent of independents disapprove of the president's performance. That is why Republicans such as Nathan Deal, the party's nominee for governor, have been quick to link Barnes and Obama.
"Georgians are appalled and frightened by the expansion of government, soaring debt and higher taxes under President Obama and the Democratic Congress," Deal spokesman Brian Robinson said.
Robinson pointed to Barnes' contributions to Obama's 2008 presidential campaign and accused Barnes of using the president to bring out black voters this year while "he pretends that he doesn't support any of his (Obama's) policies. It's absurd."
Barnes said this week he didn't know Obama was doing the automated phone call.
In his automated phone message, the president doesn't mention Barnes, but he says: "I need you to help elect good Democratic allies in Georgia who will work with me to create jobs."