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GOP May Finally Land White Whale Marshall in Georgia

John McArdle/Roll Call
Democratic Rep. Jim Marshall (right) and Republican state Rep. Austin Scott square off in a debate at the Georgia National Fair in Perry last week.

While polling on the race is mixed, the amount of money being invested is a sure sign that this district is very much in play.

The National Republican Congressional Committee has spent $320,000 in the race, and conservative outside groups are also smelling blood. The third-party group American Future Fund has spent more than $350,000 on the race, while another group, the Center for Individual Freedom, went up with a five-figure ad buy this week. Americans for Tax Reform has also dropped money in the district against Marshall. One third-party group supporting Marshall is the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has been much maligned by national Democratic leaders for supporting mostly Republicans.

As they did just before the 2008 elections with his vote for the Wall Street bailout bill, Republicans are painting Marshalls vote for the stimulus bill this cycle as a sign that he is in the pocket of his party leadership when they need him.

At last weeks debate, the conservative group Americans for Prosperity sent a pair of employees to hand out leaflets that discussed Marshalls support of Nancy Pelosis failed, wasteful spending.

At a breakfast meeting hosted by the local Farm Bureau in Wilcox County, Marshall acknowledged that even he cant keep up with all the attacks that are being run against him.

I cant be running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to respond to all this different stuff. I just need to stay steady, Marshall said. Hopefully people know who I am, what I stand for, that I am not one of these nut cases on both sides.

Marshall was the first Member in 2008 to release a commercial explaining to voters that while he didnt like the bank bailout bill, he thought it was necessary. Hes taking the same approach on the stimulus bill.

Marshall told the farm group that if Congress had not passed the stimulus, the countrys gross domestic product would be 11.5 percent lower than what it is today and that about 8.5 million more people would be out of work.

Most folks dont understand that, and theyre mad that we had to do it, and Im mad that we had to do it, Marshall said. But we had to do it, and Ill take my licks, but Im not going to back off and not do what needs to be done.

In the end, the race will likely come down to whether voters believe Marshalls middle path has been an effective one.

These so-called Blue Dog [Democrats] havent had any influence, said Warner Robins resident and Air Force veteran Bill Thornton. Marshall is a nice guy, but hes been quiet too long. I dont think he has any power or influence in his party.

Rochelle resident Pete Peebles, who works in the timber business, described Marshall as a practical, commonsense Congressman.

Peebles said he is certainly concerned about government spending.

My granddad said, You cant drink yourself sober, you cant spend yourself rich and you cant borrow yourself out of debt, he said.

But Peebles thinks Marshall has taken a stand on the health care reform bill and other pieces of legislation that have unnecessarily increased government spending.

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