Palin hits trail for Ga. Senate candidate
AUGUSTA, Ga. - Sarah Palin returned yesterday to the campaign trail for the first time since she and John McCain lost the presidential race, trying to help Republicans keep their US Senate seat in Georgia.
Republican Saxby Chambliss is trying to fend off a challenge from Democrat Jim Martin, who is getting help from President-elect Barack Obama and other Democrats leading up to today's runoff. Martin toured the state yesterday with prominent Georgia Democrats, including Representative John Lewis, and was to cap the day with a state Capitol rally with the Atlanta hip-hop artist Ludacris.
Democrats, with the support of two independents, have 58 seats in the incoming Senate, and if they were to win Georgia and a recount in Minnesota, could reach the magic number of 60, a potentially filibuster-proof majority.
"Georgia, the eyes of America are upon you. We all have Georgia on our minds," said Palin.
The Alaska governor, who might seek the top spot on the GOP ticket in four years, cast the runoff as the first step in the Republican party's recovery from the sweeping losses on Nov. 4. "We are rebuilding our party. . . . And it's starting right here in Georgia by sending Saxby back to work in the United States Senate," she said.
Several Republicans have campaigned for Chambliss, including McCain and other one-time presidential candidates including Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee, and Mitt Romney. But Palin's election-eve swing reflected her star status within the party. Several thousand supporters waited in the cold to file into the James Brown Arena in Augusta. Vendors sold bright pink "Palin 2012" T-shirts and "Palin for President: You Go Girl" buttons.
"I salute President Bush for his leadership in crafting a plan for AIDS relief in Africa and backing it up with funding dedicated to saving lives and preventing the spread of the disease. And my administration will continue this critical work to address the crisis around the world," Obama said in a video message to the Saddleback Civil Forum on Global Health in Washington, D.C. "But we must also recommit ourselves to addressing the AIDS crisis here in the United States with a strong national strategy of education, prevention, and treatment, focusing on those communities at greatest risk." More than 1 million people in the United States are living with HIV/AIDS, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.