Originally created 11/04/02

Campaigns speed up as balloting nears



ATLANTA - Mailboxes were stuffed with fliers; telephone dialing machines rang up voters by the thousands; and two Georgia counties got a presidential visit as campaigns went into weekend overtime for the sprint to Election Day.

"It's all designed to get the vote out. Every close contest of the past could have turned out the other way if the loser simply got a few more people to the polls," said University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock.

President Bush's trip to suburban Atlanta and coastal Savannah on Saturday was his third this year to boost Rep. Saxby Chambliss, who is challenging Democratic Sen. Max Cleland in a contest that will help determine control of the closely divided Senate next year.

Also expecting a bump from the visit was Sonny Perdue, the Republican candidate for governor against Democrat Roy Barnes.

"It underscored the importance the White House places on some of the contests, particularly the Senate," Dr. Bullock said. "Undecided voters who haven't been listening to the campaigns are going to be potentially susceptible to what they heard this weekend."

If the goal was to boost GOP turnout at the expense of Democratic voters, it didn't work, Democratic Party Chairman Calvin Smyre said.

"When the bell rings, it wakes everybody up. The president coming lets everybody know there's an election," he said.

Behind the scenes, both parties unleashed a tidal wave of direct-mail advertising timed to reach mailboxes on the weekend and powered-up automated telephone systems to call voters.

"Millions of pieces of mail and millions of phone calls," said Ralph Reed, the state GOP chairman. "It's the biggest effort in the history of the party that I'm aware of. We will be personally touching more voters than ever before."

The Democrats had more than a dozen different issue-oriented fliers in the mail to promote their ticket, some showcasing Mr. Barnes and the state ticket and some highlighting Mr. Cleland.

Most of the Democratic material was issue-oriented, but in one, Mr. Barnes slapped Mr. Perdue for authoring a controversial natural gas deregulation bill as a state senator. The measure passed the Legislature unanimously, with Mr. Barnes among those who voted for it.

The Christian Coalition also worked to reach voters over the weekend. They planned to make 500,000 voter guides available at churches and other locations. Past guides have shown how candidates stood on conservative issues to the organization.

The entire Democratic ticket planned to load onto four airplanes for a last campaign swing around the state today, touching down in Columbus, Albany, Savannah and Macon before returning to Atlanta in time for the 6 p.m. newscasts.

Mr. Perdue planned to visit Columbus, Macon, Savannah and Augusta.