Insider note: We will be updating this post throughout the weekend with color from the campaign trail as David Perdue and Rep. Jack Kingston make their final pitches to voters for Tuesday's Republican Senate runoff. And for more information on the candidates, click to read our profiles of Perdue, the feisty outsider, and Kingston, the unapologetic Washington veteran.
The show of force for Team Kingston at Marietta Square on Sunday afternoon left the stage practically groaning by the end.
Kingston first called up his wife, mother and four children. Then he brought back Karen Handel and Phil Gingrey -- his former Republican primary foes who introduced him to the crowd -- and a cavalcade of other local officials. They led the remaining crowd in a chorus of "Proud to be an American" and a call, as usual, for everyone to get their friends out to vote Tuesday.
Kingston made a five-minute speech, sparing his struggling voice, and acknowledged another Cobb County political figure -- former House Speaker Newt Gingrich:
"Here in what was and still is in so many respects Newt Gingrich territory, this in so many ways was the birthmark of the Contract With America. And I believe what we need right now as a conservative family is another Contract With America."
Kingston then laid out his six-point "American Renewal Initiative."
The Republican runoff campaign for U.S. Senate, like the GOP primary before it, has been notable for the absence of rhetoric intended to rally religious conservative voters.
Possibly this is a sign that David Perdue and Jack Kingston see eye-to-eye on such things as gay marriage and abortion – possibly it's because neither one wants to give Democrat Michelle Nunn a target for the general election that begins Wednesday.
But Perdue is making a last-minute attempt to bring these voters into play. Below is a robocall that we’re told went out Saturday night, The voice belongs to the Rev. Benny Tate, pastor of Rock Springs Church, of the Congregational Methodist strain, in Milner, Ga. – that’s just south of Griffin:
“…Christians need to head to the polls on Tuesday, because our values are under attack in Washington. We need someone who will stand up for our principles and push back against this liberal assault.
“I’m urging you to vote for David Perdue for U.S. Senate. David is a God-fearing man who shares our beliefs. I’ve looked him in the eye, and I know he’s a man of integrity. He was raised in middle Georgia by parents who instilled in him at an early age a foundation of faith in God. And he’s never forgotten those values….”
Perdue is scheduled to attend Tate's church this afternoon and meet privately with the reverend.
Jack Kingston's voice is shot.
The Congressman greeted about two dozen supporters at a home in Canton with an apology that the relentless campaign had rendered his voice weak and gravelly. Fortunately, his sidekick Karen Handel had whipped up some "witchcraft" concoction, Kingston quipped, that he hoped would help. Handel has been at his side a lot lately, as Kingston has counted on the third place finisher in the May primary to help him drum up votes in Tuesday's runoff.
Kingston called Handel the "cornerstone" of his final push, making calls -- for money or just support -- and spending time out on the trail.
Handel urged the attendees at the home of Teri and John Marinko, which included several local Republican Party officials and state Reps. Scot Turner and Michael Caldwell, to get their friends out to the polls on Tuesday.
"The [turnout] projection was somewhere between 8 and 10 percent. The weather is going to be terrible. It’s supposed to keep raining through Tuesday. So now that’s potentially 5 to 7 percent turnout. That means this is a crap shoot."
Kingston acknowledged some confidence about his position -- as public polls show him ahead -- but with the attack ads flying in the closing days he is leaving nothing to chance:
Going down the home stretch we feel good about things, but you never know – going up against a self-funder – what can happen. And I always think about this as a whitewater raft, with long twists and turns. And right when you think ‘OK, we’re going to make it happen.’ Then you get a new set of rapids."
He attacked businessman David Perdue as someone who does not know or understand the Republican activists who have worked for decades to build the party in Georgia, who have put up the yard signs and licked the envelopes and gone to the Saturday morning breakfasts.
"I know what it was like, how difficult it was," said Kingston, who got his start as an activist in the College Republicans in the 1970s. "Having been a fighter for the conservative cause for so long, I don’t apologize for that."
David Perdue's first stop on Saturday morning was at Cofer Brothers Lumber, where a supporter had conveniently left him a hammer he could use to pummel Rep. Jack Kingston, his opponent in Tuesday's runoff contest. The former Fortune 500 chief executive said another tool would be more apt for this stage in the campaign.
"Somebody give me the shovel," he said, shaking his head. "The stuff I'm getting lately."
Both campaigns and their supporters have unleashed millions of dollars worth of negative ads and uplifting TV spots in the final stretch of the campaign, meant to boost their candidates, ding their rivals or simply confuse or depress voters to the point where they simply stay home.
Perdue's campaign unloaded the latest salvo on Friday, a negative ad that targets the immigration stance of Kingston's biggest ally, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. At his Saturday stop, he went after the Chamber for the second time in a week, saying it was "openly, openly supporting full blanket amnesty."
(The Chamber, for its part, has said the 13-year path to citizenship outlined in the Senate-passed immigration bill - which Kingston has repeatedly said he would not support - does not qualify as "amnesty.")
At the stop, Perdue and his supporters said their tracking figures indicated a race much tighter than the WSB-TV poll released on Friday. That poll, by right-leaning Landmark Communications, gave Kingston a seven-point lead over his GOP rival.
"I'm very excited about where we are," said Perdue. "It's tight but we got momentum. And we're going to shock some people Tuesday. There's some powerbrokers who are really throwing their weight and money around. And it's not sticking."