Political Insider

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One reason why you shouldn't expect to see Hillary Clinton in Georgia before Nov. 8: Jim Barksdale

Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton has so far bypassed Georgia as part of her push into traditional Republican strongholds.

Atlanta Mayor and top Clinton surrogate Kasim Reed on Wednesday hinted that Georgia could see some more attention in the coming days. But with less than two weeks until Election Day, color us a little skeptical after reading the political tea leaves.

We start with Jim Barksdale.

Despite his deep pockets -- he's so far funneled $3.5 million of his own fortune into the race -- the Democratic U.S. Senate candidate has struggled to give Republican incumbent Johnny Isakson a real run for his money. It took him months to build an effective campaign infrastructure and cohesive message, and that's hurt the political newcomer's ability build much of any name recognition, observers say.

That's shown through in recent polling. Real Clear Politics gives Isakson a more than 11-percentage-point edge in its polling average and our own survey had Barksdale 15 points behind the two-term senator.

Clinton surrogates swinging through Georgia for fundraising or campaign stops have avoided appearing with Barksdale, and only now is he starting to receive endorsements from the party elite (with several notable snubs).

None in Georgia who are involved on the Democratic side, including the Clinton and Barksdale campaigns, were willing to speak on the record about the Georgia snub.

When asked if Clinton would have been more likely to invest in Georgia if the Democrats had a stronger Senate candidate, Reed dodged.

“I think that there will be no better time for a Democrat running for office than the election on Nov. 8. It’s certainly going to be the closest election on the presidential level since President Clinton was on the ballot," he said.

Overall, many observers say they do not expect Georgia to see much attention from Clinton anytime soon. That's because the calculus behind Clinton's push into traditionally Republican states such as Missouri and Indiana appears to be tied to promising down-ballot races that could lend to her eventual presidential agenda. And beyond Barksdale, none of Georgia's 14 House races are competitive.

States like Missouri and Indiana have been more privy to electing Democrats statewide than Georgia has over the last decade, but Clinton's move to send her resources elsewhere is striking given that recent polls show the former secretary of state deadlocked with Donald Trump in the Peach State.

Clinton herself has not been in Georgia since February, and her camp has not sent any of her top surrogates to the state for public appearances in October.

Clinton’s Georgia boosters have indicated the campaign is open to the prospect of more investment in the state in the closing chapter of the presidential race, and a Clinton-aligned super PAC notably did begin advertising on African-American radio and television stations last week.

“We’re going to have a call today about putting more resources in the state, about 14 days out," Reed said Wednesday. "Democratic groups have already come in with a significant buy, and I think you’ll be seeing the influence on your stations soon.”

But with less than two weeks until the election and ad time becoming increasingly precious and expensive, particularly in Atlanta's market, the clock is ticking.

There has been movement in the other direction to aid Clinton's campaign. Some of Georgia's Democratic congressmen, including John Lewis and Hank Johnson, have been working on the ground in Georgia to aid Clinton's prospects, and Barksdale himself sent more than $33,000 Clinton's way last quarter, according to federal campaign finance disclosures.

Meanwhile, the Georgia Democratic Party recently transferred $800,000 to its Florida counterparts and $150,000 to Ohio. A party official said that's not unusual and is part of the national party's financial program, but it's difficult to believe nearly $1 million would be sent out of Georgia if the state were truly in play.

There's hope that Clinton's investment in the Democratic Party's get out the vote effort will help bolster the party's candidates up and down the ballot, including Barksdale. But until the candidate herself starts pouring some real resources into Georgia for things like television advertising, Democratic challengers will be struggling to flip Georgia in their direction.

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About the Author

Tamar Hallerman is The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Washington correspondent, covering Congress, federal agencies and other government activities that impact Georgia.