Democrat Barack Obama's campaign has pulled ads running in Georgia and shifted some of its paid campaign staff from Georgia to North Carolina while contending that it's not surrendering the state to Republican John McCain.
Obama has pledged to make Georgia, a Republican stronghold, a battleground for the November election, encouraged by the large number of blacks and young people who call the state home and who have been crucial to his success.
Although the changes come in the wake of tightening polls, Obama aides insist they still plan to compete in Georgia and note that two more campaign offices are set to open in the state, bringing the total to 35.
"We've got a terrific ground game there," Obama campaign manager David Plouffe told reporters this week, noting that the campaign's voter registration drives in the state have added 150,000 voters to the rolls.
Georgia hasn't backed a Democrat for president since Southerner Bill Clinton in 1992.
"They are realizing this is a red state, this is a conservative state. Why spend your money where you can't win?" Georgia Republican Party Chairwoman Sue Everhart said.
McCain lost Georgia's Feb. 5 Republican primary to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister. That seemed to suggest his support in the state was soft. But his selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin on the GOP ticket has energized the state's evangelical voters.
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a Georgia Republican, said McCain would be helped along by "huge numbers of veterans and huge numbers of retired military."
"They are not going to carry Georgia," Gingrich said Wednesday. "It's just not going to happen."
Caroline Adelman, Obama's campaign spokeswoman in Georgia, acknowledged "a small number" of paid campaign workers are leaving. But she said because of their success in Georgia they are being dispatched to a state with a later voter registration deadline. Georgia has an Oct. 6 voter registration deadline and North Carolina's is Oct. 10.
"The whole idea that we are ceding Georgia is based solely on the fact that we no longer have TV ads in the state," Adelman said. "We never thought TV ads would win in Georgia ... grassroots will."
The Obama campaign has broadcast about $2 million in campaign ads in Georgia since the January primary season. A two-month-long ad campaign in the state stopped at the end of August, records show.
The Democrats' effort has been mocked by Georgia's Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue. He encouraged Democrats to spend "millions of millions of dollars" in what he said ultimately would prove to be a futile undertaking.
"Spend as much money as possible," Perdue said.
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