Gainesville – Democrat Jason Carter and his famous grandfather made incursions into Gov. Nathan Deal's backyard, signaling they wouldn't concede any part of Georgia in the race to lead the state. The governor, meanwhile, trekked deep into Democratic territory to mine for votes with a message that the economy was on the rebound.
Former President Jimmy Carter campaigned for his grandson in Sandersville, the middle Georgia town where Deal grew up. After mentioning that he won Washington County when he ran for governor and president, the elder Carter said Georgia is failing to realize its "tremendous potential" under Republican leadership.
“We are going downhill instead of uphill," he told a crowd at a Sandersville restaurant. "Why in the world does Georgia have the highest unemployment rate in the whole nation?”
At about the same time, Jason Carter was greeting voters as he strolled through downtown Gainesville, the governor's base and an area Deal represented in Congress.
“Two votes in Gainesville are worth the same as two votes in Atlanta,” Jason Carter told my AJC colleague Jeremy Redmon. “When I’m the governor, I want people to know that I am going to be the governor for everyone, whether they voted for me or not. We are getting ready to win and it is going to be important for us to bring the state together.”
Deal stumped across the state in Blakely, a town of about 5,000 souls in a southwest Georgia county that narrowly went to President Barack Obama in 2012. It seemed an interesting choice for a Deal campaign event sandwiched between stops in Columbus and Albany.
But Deal got one of his most boisterous welcomes when his caravan rolled into town this afternoon. Folks dressed in karate uniforms, local poobahs and kids decked out in white Deal T-shirts waited more than an hour to greet Deal and his caravan of GOP elite.
A few Jason Carter supporters even showed up to quietly wave signs for the Democrat across the street.
Deal told the crowd of about 100 that Georgia is "at the tip of the spear" in bringing new jobs and creativity to rural south Georgia. In an interview, he said he was also hoping to appeal to on-the-fence voters. Most polls suggest at least 5 percent of voters are still undecided, and their support could help either candidate avoid a runoff.
"Swing voters want to know if you've done something rather than just talk to talk," Deal said. "And I've done something. I've turned ideas into action, worked across party lines. My record speaks for itself."