Thousands show up to hear Palin

Former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin pleaded Monday with local voters to re-elect U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss when they go to the polls today.

"We all have Georgia on our minds," the Alaska governor told an enthusiastic crowd of several thousand at James Brown Arena. "Georgia, the stakes are so high. America is depending on you."

Mr. Chambliss faces Democrat Jim Martin today in a runoff.

A win by Mr. Chambliss not only benefits Georgia, but also "Alaska, Hawaii, Maine," and the rest of the nation, Mrs. Palin said.

Senate Democrats are two seats shy of the 60 needed to block Republican filibusters.

A win by Mr. Chambliss would deny President-elect Obama easy passage of bad tax, economic and energy policies, Mrs. Palin said.

"This is for my kids and their future," she said. "We need Saxby back in Washington."

Mr. Chambliss introduced Mrs. Palin to a rock star-like ovation. Though he didn't overtly attack his opponent, the senator did say his re-election will act as a stop-gap measure for bad legislation coming from the White House.

The Augusta Chambliss rally was the first of four across the state Monday. Mrs. Palin also visited Savannah, Perry and Atlanta before heading to a meeting with Mr. Obama in Philadelphia.

Mr. Chambliss has said he believes turnout will determine the victor today, and Monday's rallies were designed to encourage Republicans to head to the polls, said Chambliss press secretary Ashley Nelson.

"We believe Mrs. Palin's presence will increase enthusiasm for the election," Ms. Nelson said.

Gov. Sonny Perdue also spoke at the rally and encouraged the crowd to call 10 friends and ask them to vote for Mr. Chambliss.

After the rally, Evans resident and Zaxby's franchise owner George Deuhring said he intends to call 10 friends and pointed to an "I voted" sticker on his jacket.

He said he believed Mrs. Palin helped Mr. Chambliss' cause.

"When she speaks, it comes from the heart," he said. "You could sense the enthusiasm level rising."

Reach Donnie Fetter at (706) 868-1222, ext. 115, or donnie.fetter@augustachronicle.com.