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Chambliss defeats Cleland in Georgia


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ATLANTA, Georgia (CNN) -- Rep. Saxby Chambliss defeated Democratic Sen. Max Cleland Tuesday in one of the most closely contested Senate races in the country, CNN projected.

Cleland's seat has never been held by a Republican.

Chambliss got into the race after being drawn into the same House district with fellow Rep. Jack Kingston. Instead of challenging Kingston, he opted to run for the Senate. He also was recruited by the White House and endorsed by Senate Republicans, who saw Cleland as one of the weakest Democratic incumbents. Cleland was first elected in 1996 with 49 percent.

Chambliss overcame low name recognition and, the endorsement of Cleland by popular junior senator, Zell Miller. Cleland is well-known throughout the state due to serving as Georgia's secretary of state for many years.

Miller has been lionized by Georgia Republicans for bucking his national party and supporting President Bush. Miller endorsed Cleland and appeared in a television commercial backing his candidacy.

Chambliss hammered Cleland over his votes on Bush's proposed bill creating the Department of Homeland Security but ran into trouble after he ran a television ad attacking Cleland's votes that featured images of Osama bin Laden. He was forced to remove the image from the spot, a tacit acknowledgement of a misstep.

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