Republican John McCain implored Georgia voters Thursday to back Sen. Saxby Chambliss in next month's runoff, warning that Democrats will increase taxes and cut defense spending and the GOP needs to strengthen its ranks.
“I didn't think I'd be back on the campaign trail quite this early,” McCain told some 1,500 people in his first political appearance since losing the presidency to Barack Obama last week. “But there is a lot at stake here. … I'm asking you to go into battle one more time.”
Chambliss failed to cross the 50 percent threshold and faces a Dec. 2 rematch with Democrat Jim Martin.
Georgia's election results were certified Thursday, and the final tallies show Chambliss falling just short, with 49.8 percent of the vote. Martin earned 46.8 percent and Libertarian Allen Buckley, also in the race, pulled 3.4 percent.
His voice rising, McCain told the crowd that Chambliss, a first-term senator, “is doing what we Republicans should have done for eight years and that's restrain spending.”
And in a commentary on his Election Day loss, the Arizona senator added, “We let spending get out of control and it cost us a lot of our conservative base.”
McCain cited recent comments by Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., about possible cuts in military spending and alluded to Obama's plan to raise taxes on families making more than $250,000 a year. “We're in two wars. We can't cut defense spending,” McCain said.
In addition to Georgia, Senate races in Minnesota and Alaska remain unresolved. Sen. Norm Coleman leads in Minnesota in a race headed to a statewide recount. Democrat Mark Begich took an 814-vote lead against Sen. Ted Stevens as votes were still being counted in Alaska.
No matter the outcome, Senate Democrats would have 55 seats with two independents who caucus with the party.