Down To The Wire In Georgia : It's All Politics Since Nov. 4, when neither candidate in the Georgia Senate race received the required majority of the vote, the state has been ground zero for political junkies.

Down To The Wire In Georgia

Today's Senate runoff in Georgia has been called a lot of things. "The first salvo in the 2010 midterms!" No, wait: "The beginning of the battle for the White House in 2012!!" How about: "Retribution for 2008!!!" I've even heard someone call it this year's version of the Spanish Civil War, with both candidates used as proxies. (Wait, that was me.)

Whatever you want to call it, it has kept our attention these past four weeks.

The reason we're at this point is that although Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R) received 110,000 votes more than Jim Martin, his Democratic challenger, he failed because of the vote siphoned off by the Libertarian Party nominee to break 50 percent, as required by state law; he wound up with 49.8 percent of the vote. And thus the runoff.

Saxby and Martin campaign buttons.

(The last time a Georgia Senate race went to a runoff? That was in 1992, and it was insightfully and emotionally recounted in a blog posting yesterday.)

Both parties have sent a virtual who's-who to the Peach State on behalf of the candidates a list that includes a former president, a former almost-president, a former wishes-he-were-president-elect, a former wishes-she-were-vice-president-elect, and a whole slew of wannabe presidents. For the Democrats, Bill Clinton has been in to campaign for Martin, as have Al Gore and Congressman John Lewis, as well as hip-hop stars T.I., Young Jeezy and Ludacris. For the Republicans, there's been John McCain (who carried the state on Nov. 4 by 200,000), Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee and, last but not least, Sarah Palin. FYI, there was more footage of the Alaska governor on cable TV yesterday than there was of the Senate candidates.

I'm not sure which was more surreal: the sight of Martin, a low-key former state legislator, campaigning with Ludacris, or the fact that at her Augusta appearance, there were tons of "Palin 2012" T-shirts and "Palin for President: You Go Girl" buttons. The 2008 elections are less than a month old and we're talking about 2012! Ludacris, indeed.

The importance of the race is clear: Democrats would love to get to the magic number of 60 Senate seats they're currently at 58 which, theoretically, would make the Senate impervious to Republican filibusters. The only way to get to 60 is for Martin to defeat Chambliss today, and for Al Franken to win the Senate recount in Minnesota over GOP incumbent Norm Coleman. And that one won't be decided for two more weeks.

Democrats would also love the chance for payback against Chambliss, who they say ran a nasty and dishonest campaign six years ago when he unseated Sen. Max Cleland.

Republicans, on the other hand, would love to rain on the Democrats' parade that has been all but nonstop since Nov. 4. They lost seven seats on Election Day in Alaska, Colorado, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, Oregon and Virginia and a defeat today would be devastating, especially considering the fact that Martin wasn't initially seen as any kind of threat. They're talking about Martin being a "rubber stamp" for Obama, and that only Chambliss can keep the Senate GOP relevant. They need to come away with a victory, even though it's a seat that once was seen as a slam-dunk.

Big question: the size of today's black turnout. Without Barack Obama on the ballot and without him even coming into the state to campaign (though he recorded a radio ad for Martin) the number of African-Americans showing up is a question mark. There is anecdotal evidence showing a decline in black voter turnout for the runoff.

Polls close at 7 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

Atlanta weather (or at least north Fulton County weather), as per NPR's Kathy Lohr: sunny and cool, high of about 45 degrees.

Predictions, anyone? (I say Chambliss.)