By Mark Lastinger
Mike Keown used a car racing analogy to describe his effort to unseat longtime incumbent Congressman Sanford Bishop.
"Sanford Bishop can look out his door and he can see me coming. He knows we're right there," Keown said during a fund-raising luncheon at The Plaza on Tuesday. "I'm going to have my foot on the floor from now until we get to that (last-lap) straight-away, and he's going to be the first one to let up.
"I can guarantee you we will do absolutely everything we can to make sure we leave it all on the field and win this race."
Keown's remarks drew an enthusiastic response from a crowd of about 80 diehard Republicans. He received a standing ovation when he concluded.
The crowd pledged about $50,000 for Keown's campaign. The Coolidge pastor, who drives a race car occasionally at Albany Motor Speedway, has raised more $500,000 so far, putting him on nearly equal footing with his opponent.
A recent Public Opinion Strategies survey indicated that Keown leads Bishop among voters who are familiar with both candidates 53-41 percent. He trailed overall by only six points despite being known by just 53 percent of the electorate.
Keown plans to boost his name recognition in a spate of TV ads later this month.
U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss believes Keown is part of a Republican tide that is about to sweep into Washington, D.C.
"The cards are lining up our way," he said. "If the election were tomorrow, I would feel very good about our chances. What that tells me is that Mike has got to work harder in the next 55 days than he can ever imagine. He's got to work harder in the next 55 days than he's worked to this point."
Keown vowed that he and his campaign staff are up to the challenge.
"In the last 12 months, we have seen what may viewed as an unwinnable race change into a winnable race -- and we've got 55 days to go," Keown said. "We did it with a lot of hard work. We did it with a lot of perseverance, getting out there with a call -- a sense of purpose."
Keown believes he is doing what God wants.
"That's where the sense of hard work comes from," he said.
In recent days, many political scientist have predicted the GOP will take over the House of Representatives and make a big dent in the Democrats' majority in the Senate. Chambliss said it is possible that the GOP could reclaim control of the Senate.
"It would take a perfect storm, but it's possible," he said.
Chambliss said most Americans have rejected the Democrats' economic plans and changes to the health care system. He believes they prefer Keown's brand of fiscal responsibility and individual accountability over the gigantic taxpayer-funded bank bailouts and corporate takeovers Bishop supported during the current session of Congress.
"MIke's got the kind of message that will resonate in the Second District and across the whole country," Chambliss said.
The primary theme of Keown's message is clear.
"I can give you something you haven't had in a long time -- somebody who will represent you first," he said.