LOS ANGELES - Georgia Democratic leaders sent the state's delegation to the party's national convention home Thursday as if they were a wave of troops ready to go into battle for Al Gore.
"Fired up?" state Rep. Calvin Smyre exhorted the delegates four times near the end of their last and most raucous meeting of the week, pausing each time for a round of cheering and hollering. "Let's go!"
Mr. Smyre reminded the group that they need to work hard because Georgia is widely considered up for grabs in the race between the vice president and Republican George W. Bush.
"Georgia's in play," he said. "I want to keep it in play."
It's been decades since either Democrats or Republicans actually chose their presidential nominee during the convention. As a result, the quadrennial rituals have evolved into pep rallies designed to inspire each party's most dedicated activists for the long hours of tasks ahead in the coming months, from working phone banks to stuffing envelopes.
"The primary does give us the candidate," said Leslie Horton, a delegate from Jesup. "But you need something to truly put it all together and gel it and make everybody feel that we have a chance to do well."
But the benefits of attending a convention go far beyond something as intangible as inspiration, said Ed Feiler, a delegate from Savannah.
"This is a chance for the Georgia (Democrats) who are active all over the state to develop their own network," he said. "We've developed a structure to cooperate and try to work for the election of the ticket."
Secretary of State Cathy Cox stressed the importance of the female vote to Mr. Gore and running mate Joseph Lieberman.
It was by carrying women voters by substantial margins that Bill Clinton won the past two presidential elections. But recent polls have shown that Mr. Bush is finding stronger support among women than did his father, former President Bush, or 1996 GOP nominee Bob Dole.
Ms. Cox urged her fellow female delegates to carry the message of Mr. Gore's commitment to the environment, health care and education - important issues to women - onto the campaign trail this fall.
"Women are 54 percent of the vote in Georgia," she said. "With the women behind Al Gore, he's going to carry Georgia in November."
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