By Daniel Silliman
When Jim Martin got off the campaign bus, a small crowd started shouting Barack Obama's campaign slogan.
"Yes we can!" they yelled, and then, in a show of confidence, "Yes we will!"
Martin, the 63-year-old Democrat running for the U.S. Senate, embraced the Obama campaign message of change in his short, but energetic rally at McDonough's Heritage Park on Sunday.
"Yes we will," Martin said. "Yes, yes, yes."
At the rally, eager Martin supporters waived hand-drawn signs, made up with blue- and-red markers, associating the president-elect with the U.S. Senate candidate.
One sign said, "Obama NEEDS Jim Martin," though it would seem to be the other way around, given the way the campaign has wrapped itself in Obama's name and energy.
Martin's campaign has gone from something sort of quixotic to a very close and aggressive race. At the stop on Sunday, Martin pushed the three-part message that has brought him this far: Association with
Obama, economic problems, and attacks on the incumbent, Republican Saxby Chambliss.
"Georgians want to move forward," said Kate Hansen, the campaign's spokeswoman. "They want us to work with president-elect Senator Obama, go to Washington and stand up for middle class Georgians."
Martin moved from promises to go help Obama to promises to fix the economy. He said he would help the president-elect with the economy by giving tax relief to the middle class, promoting green jobs and ending the expensive war in Iraq "with honor."
Martin also took a few swipes at his opponent, getting appreciative boos from the crowd with his dismissal of Chambliss.
"Saxby said he doesn't think there's anything wrong with the economy, well I am telling you, Saxby, there is something wrong with the economy ... People are tired of trickle-down economics. It don't
work," Martin said.
The "America is Back" tour made seven stops on Saturday, starting at a post office in Savannah, then Statesboro, Hinsville, Brunswick, and ending at a cafe in Valdosta. Martin continued Sunday in McDonough, and Hansen said the campaign is going to try to cover as much ground as possible before the Dec. 2 election.
The weekend sprint was meant to motivate supporters in time for early voting, which starts Monday, and to solidify Martin's three-part mantra of Obama association, economic promises and Chambliss attacks.
Hansen said the campaign -- though now grinding into its fourth election -- has seen an "up-tick in support," since the general election and the Democratic presidential victory. The Georgia senate seat has become important to the national Democratic party, as part of a push toward a veto-proof majority, and the state party is energized.
Hansen said all of the state's Obama campaign offices have been turned into Martin offices and about 100 volunteers have switched from the presidential race to the senate run-off race.
In Henry County, where Democrats had been scarce, some see this race as a significant step toward changing the county.
"If you look at the numbers," said Jim Nichols, the county's party chairman, "Henry County is changing. It's changing demographically, but also because people are getting tired of Republican policies.
Republicans have been in control for a long time in the state, and certainly in the county, and people are getting tired of it."