ATLANTA -- Democratic cookie baron Michael Coles got a boost Thursday from President Clinton, who landed in Atlanta to help raise $500,000 for the candidate's sure-to-be uphill climb to knock off Republican Sen. Paul Coverdell.
While in Georgia, Mr. Clinton also joined U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., a former Coles adversary, to promote a federal anti-drug ad campaign that has received bipartisan support.
Plans are to run $195 million worth of ads in the next year showing the detrimental effect of drugs, a modernized version of the Reagan-era "Just Say No" campaign.
During a fund-raising luncheon, Mr. Clinton told an audience of about 500 that Mr. Coles faces a tough fight against Mr. Coverdell for a U.S. Senate seat that has flipped between the two major parties three times since 1980.
"How are we going to win this race? What are we going to say to voters? What do you need to win a race in a state that has become an American battleground for the future?" Mr. Clinton said.
"We have to convince moderate Republicans and independent voters what has happened in America in the last six years and what happened in Georgia under (Gov.) Zell Miller is not an accident ... There is a connection between ideas and the policies people pursue and consequences in the lives of people," he said.
Mr. Coles stood on stage with Mr. Clinton during the endorsement speech. He choked up twice during his introduction of the president, pausing before he continued.
Mr. Coles founded the Great American Cookie Co. 20 years ago after leaving the clothing business.
He entered politics in 1996 when he ran unsuccessfully against Mr. Gingrich. He then served briefly as state Democratic Party chairman.
The packed-house fund-raiser at the Marriott Marquis drew numerous Democratic notables, including Mr. Miller, former Atlanta mayor and U.N. Ambassador Andrew Young, and former Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson.
Even though Mr. Coles received the president's support, he said he still disagrees with him on several points, including Mr. Clinton's failed health insurance reform proposal. Mr. Coles calls himself a conservative Democrat in the mold of former Georgia U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn.
Mr. Clinton acknowledged as much during his endorsement speech.
"I do not expect this man, if he is elected to the Senate, to vote with me on every issue," he said.
Mr. Coles is expected to easily pass a July 21 primary test against perennial candidate Jim Boyd.
The Coles-Coverdell matchup is one of several targeted by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. Democrats hope the presidential visit will help boost Mr. Coles' campaign war chest.
Tickets to the luncheon cost $500 to $10,000. The big donations bought a reception with the president.
One political analyst said it is unlikely Mr. Clinton's visit will sway a lot of moderate Republican voters.
"Georgia is not his strongest area," said Alan Abramowitz, a political science professor at Emory University in Atlanta. "He didn't carry this state in the last election, but he can help with fund-raising. Presidents don't usually transfer their popularity directly to another candidate."
Party rivalries were briefly set aside for the anti-drug campaign announcement, where Mr. Clinton stood alongside Mr. Gingrich, who has criticized the president for failing to speak out against rising youth drug abuse during his first term.
Mr. Gingrich promised to seek $1 billion from Congress to continue the advertising blitz for five years.
The bipartisanship was only temporary. Mr. Gingrich left to attend a New York Republican fund-raiser, while Mr. Clinton -- after a stop in Central Florida to thank firefighters combating statewide blazes -- planned to attend another Democratic fund-raiser in Miami.