Two years ago in Georgia’s 3rd Congressional District, Republican Calder Clay lost to Democrat Jim Marshall by about 1,000 votes. Since that time, Marshall has, despite overwhelmingly liberal tendencies, tried to moderate himself in voting. While running a scare campaign on social security, Marshall has tried to stay so close to the President on defense issues you might think they were gay lovers. “No one should politicize the war,” Marshall frequently says. He, very admirably, has not done so except to prove to a district with a large military voter base that he is no peacenik. Marshall also touts his veteran status, though with more class and substance than John Kerry.
Clay’s strategy, thus far, has been to attack, attack, attack, and remind voters that Clay is the Republican in the race. According to the Macon Telegraph,
In the campaign for the 3rd District congressional seat, Republican challenger Calder Clay emphasizes he’s on the president’s team. Incumbent U.S. Rep. Jim Marshall, D-Ga., prefers to cultivate an independent image.
The Macon Republican has brought a string of GOP heavy hitters to town, from Vice President Dick Cheney in July to Senate majority leader Bill Frist today, to show that he’s on the same side as the presidential administration.
“Jim Marshall is embarrassed of his team,” said Rufus Montgomery, campaign manager for Clay.
Doug Moore, Marshall’s spokesman, characterized him as “an independent voice for Middle Georgia.” Marshall has repeatedly declined to say whether he will support Democratic presidential nominee Sen. John Kerry.
“Jim Marshall’s on the Middle Georgia team before he’s on any other team,” Moore said.
Marshall has yet to mention Clay while Clay beats up Marshall as hard as he can. Whether or not it will help is yet to be determined. A lot of voters claim to be burned out on attacks, though history shows negative attacks work. A frequent criticism of Calder Clay’s attack campaign parallels the Kerry campaign — Clay is so busy attacking Marshall, he has yet to say what he would do differently.
Travelling through rural Wilkinson County, one of the poorest counties in Georgia, Republican voters point out that Clay became their best friend two years ago. Up until he started running this year, they have not seen him since his loss in 2002. With less than forty days to go, Calder Clay is going to have to be seen and heard to make any headway. But, if Marshall feels threatened, he will attack with poll tested ammunition.