By Joel Hall
In what has become an increasingly tight race between incumbent U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) and his Democratic rival, Jim Martin, the Martin for Senate Campaign is preparing itself for a Dec. 2 run-off election.
On Wednesday, with 96 percent of Georgia's precincts reporting, the Martin campaign held a press conference declaring that the race, which once included Libertarian challenger, Allen Buckley, has become a two-man race between Martin and Chambliss.
"We are in a runoff," said Martin. "And the runoff race begins right now. We're going to win on December 2nd, because this race is going to be about helping President-elect Barack Obama get our economy back on track and making the economy work for the middle class again."
On Tuesday night, projections from Georgia's Secretary of State, which had Chambliss well ahead of his challengers, began to tighten as more votes rolled in from Democratic-leaning counties, such as Fulton and DeKalb.
By Wednesday, with 4 percent of the precincts unreported, Chambliss had 49.9 percent of the vote -- just short of the 50 percent-plus-one vote total needed to win the election outright.
Martin had 46.7 percent of the vote, while Buckley had only 3.4 percent.
Still waiting for the results of absentee and military voters in several counties, the Chambliss campaign was not yet ready to declare a runoff.
"We are still in the process of counting the remainder of the ballots from Georgia voters, but if there is a runoff, we are prepared for it," said Michelle Grasso, a spokesperson for the Chambliss campaign. "Until there is a clear winner, the senator is still in full campaign mode.
"What we're waiting for, which will pull strong for the senator, are not just the absentee ballots, but the military ballots," Grasso continued. "Those are scattered across the state."
Kate Hansen, a spokesperson for the Martin campaign, said Martin will continue to campaign with the hopes of beating Chambliss on Dec. 2.
"As we moved closer to the election and more people got to know Jim, we have seen it tighten up," said Hansen. "We count today as the first day of the runoff, and we're working hard. We know it's been a long campaign, but we are looking forward to it."
The Chambliss campaign is still confident that it can pull off a decisive win.
"Georgia Senate races are very close, and the only poll that matters is what comes down on Election Day," said Grasso. "We're still counting the votes and waiting to see what happens."