Democratic supporters embrace Michelle Nunn — and Obama — in Georgia

Georgia U.S. Senate Democratic candidate Michelle Nunn, right, greets supporters at a campaign field office, Monday, Nov. 3, 2014, in Decatur, Ga. (Photo by David Goldman/AP)
Georgia U.S. Senate Democratic candidate Michelle Nunn, right, greets supporters at a campaign field office, Monday, Nov. 3, 2014, in Decatur, Ga.

DECATUR, Georgia — Republicans have tried to paint Georgia U.S. Senate candidate Michelle Nunn as someone who would simply rubber stamp President Barack Obama’s agenda. 

It’s a line of criticism that seems to get her base most riled up—not only because they believe Nunn would maintain her independence, but also because they still adamantly support the president.  

“I’m an Obama fan,” explained Clyde McCarty, 92, shortly before Nunn knocked on her door in suburban Decatur as part of a last-minute canvassing push. McCarty said it would suit her just fine if Nunn supported the president’s agenda. “If she does that, it’s okay with me."

Chris Lake, 62, says she was particularly turned off when Republican David Perdue “tried to draw her into defending Obama,” likening his performance to an “anti-Obama tirade.” Nunn held her own, Lake added as she was waited to meet Nunn at her field office in Decatur. “She is a woman with her head on her shoulders.”

The anti-Obama ire from Republicans has also irked Lorraine Earle, 75, who volunteered to canvass for Nunn on Monday. Earle wants Nunn in office specifically so that she can help the president achieve his agenda. According to the president’s critics, “every time something goes wrong, it’s his fault,” said Earle. Nunn could help Obama by working “from one side to the others,” she said. 

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It’s been a tough balancing act for Nunn, who needs to excite the Democratic base in a state Obama lost by 8 points in 2012, while expanding her appeal to more independent voters at a time when the president's approval rating is at record lows. Her showing in the race has been stronger than expected in part because of Georgia’s growing black and immigrant population, who overwhelmingly support the president. Still, Nunn needs around 30% of the white vote to win and has only reached about 25% support, according to an analysis from The New York Times

So throughout her campaign, Nunn has insisted that she would maintain her independence from the president and her party as a moderate centrist and deficit hawk. While she’s vocally supported some parts of Obamacare and the Medicaid expansion, she’s repeatedly dodged the question of whether she would have voted for the law. 

It’s left some Republicans and independent conflicted about whether they would be willing to vote for her. At her Decatur field office, she recalled meeting a Republican couple in Savannah. “We really want to vote for you …” they told her.

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Nunn urged them to take the leap. “Just do it!” she said.

But Nunn’s climb will get even steeper if the race goes to a runoff in January, which it will if neither candidate gets 50% of the vote tomorrow. Libertarian candidate Amanda Swafford has only polled at a few percentage points, but it’s widely presumed that most of those voters would go to Republican David Perdue.  When asked about the likely difficulty of succeeding in such a runoff, Nunn struck a defiant tone. 

“We’ve already defied the prognosticators,” she told msnbc.