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Zellously head-scratching


Sen. Zell Miller tells people in Washington that his No. 1 priority is helping Max Cleland get re-elected to the Senate.

He's certainly been up to the task on the airwaves and whenever else he's been called upon to give Cleland a boost.

On the Senate floor, though, Miller butters up George W. Bush like the professor and Miller is the student who really, really needs an A. Miller's cheerleading of Bush, both on the homeland security bill and the question of war with Iraq, has some Democrats wondering just how much Miller actually wants Cleland to win.

On the Iraq issue, for example, Miller buddies up with the president without reservation (save for those expressed in an obtusely written Washington Post piece). All this makes Cleland's go-it-slow approach look soft on Saddam. (Well, as soft as any triple-amputee war hero can look.)

The question is whether Miller's recent actions will speak louder to voters than his words.

"I'm not sure the two things are connected," says Gary Horlacher, a former press secretary for Gov. Roy Barnes. "The biggest danger [for Cleland] is being perceived as having lined up with [Al] Gore and [Jimmy] Carter, but I think that's a bit of a stretch myself.

"It's like when you go shopping: people see what they're looking for. Those looking for an endorsement see it that way; those looking for distinction may see it that way. Those swayed by Zell's endorsement won't tip back the other way."

That may be true, but with one of the major themes of Chambliss' campaign being Cleland's supposed left leaning, Miller's war chants and enthusiasm for Bush gives the Republican's campaign something to talk about.

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