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Cagle's charisma proves tough obstacle 

No real villain in the race

One of the big questions in the race for lieutenant governor was how hard the nice guy from Atlanta would hit when he came face to face with the frontrunner.

In their Atlanta Press Club debate Sunday night, Democrat Jim Martin said he's been underestimated before on the basis of his civility. Then, he proceeded to go after state Sen. Casey Cagle, R-Gainesville, first on Cagle's environmental record, but mostly on what Martin cited as a disconnect between Cagle's rhetoric and reality.

The trouble for Martin, and maybe it's one of the reasons he continues to run behind Cagle, is that there is the appearance of no real villain in the race. On Sunday, the Republican frontrunner told his story in a few strokes: He was raised by his mother, who held down two jobs rather than take public assistance. He attended eight schools before he reached the sixth grade. He continues to be a God-fearing man. He says that, and he seems sincere.

How does one attack a candidate who projects the humble pride of someone who didn't come up in the best of circumstances but whose strength of character has prevailed? Cagle's upbeat message is very simple: I did it. Now, I believe you can do it, too.

Martin countered that Cagle's more than ready to segment out certain people for political advantage: "You were part of a Republican administration that made an effort to disenfranchise 750,000 Georgians, by passing this voter ID bill that the courts have thrown out. ... There's a difference between what you say and what you do."

Cagle tried to answer but it wasn't his turn, so he just smiled. It wasn't quite the knockout punch.

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