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Wednesday, 6 November, 2002, 11:44 GMT
Georgia upset stuns Democrats
President Bush with Saxby Chambliss
President Bush backed Saxby Chambliss' attacks
Republican Saxby Chambliss successfully brought George W Bush and Osama Bin Laden into his campaign in Georgia to beat incumbent senator Max Cleland.

Mr Cleland - an army veteran who lost three limbs in a grenade explosion during the Vietnam War - had long been considered "untouchable" on questions of defence and national security, correspondents say.

A supporter with Max Cleland
Max Cleland saw his traditional support base targeted by Mr Chambliss
But Mr Chambliss attacked his votes against President Bush's plans to set up a Department of Homeland Security in the wake of the 11 September attacks on New York and Washington.

The Georgia race highlighted the difficulties faced by Democrats in challenging a president leading the country during the worst attack on home soil for 50 years and in being unable to get the focus onto the domestic issues where they are traditionally stronger.

President Bush travelled to Georgia several times to campaign for Mr Chambliss, who was not well known outside the district he represented as Congressman.

Accusations

He joined in the accusations against Democrats such as Mr Cleland, accusing them of being more interested in issues such as workers' rights rather than the nation's security.

Mr Chambliss soared in the polls after launching critical advertisements against Mr Cleland, one of which used a photograph of Bin Laden, saying Mr Cleland had voted against beefing up domestic security - a claim that Mr Cleland disputed.

Mr Chambliss also targeted the war veterans who had formed a solid base of support for Mr Cleland.

Although he was given a medical exemption from serving in the army, Mr Chambliss received an endorsement from the national Veterans of Foreign Wars group - which Mr Cleland said was a partisan move by Washington bureaucrats.

New hero

But Mr Chambliss' constant attacks clearly worked and his unexpected success has led one correspondent in the US to call him "the president's new hero".


We weren't able to get our message out because of so much talk about terror and war in Iraq

Patty Murray,
Democrat campaigner
He was indeed one of the first successful candidates to receive a congratulatory phone call from the White House.

A political scientist from Philadelphia's Temple University, James Hilty, suggested Mr Chambliss should be as thankful to Mr Bush as the president was to the new senator.

"Bush's involvement definitely tilted the balance," he said.

"He gave Republicans a sense of mission, while the Democrats feared a backlash if they challenged Bush on foreign policy and tiptoed through the campaign."

Senator Patty Murray, head of the Democratic Party's Senate campaign agreed.

"We weren't able to get our message out because of so much talk about terror and war in Iraq," she said.


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