Gov. Sonny Perdue is greeting his wife, Mary, at the start of another day, when - seemingly out of the blue - she blurts, "You know, I'm worried about those creepy guys on the Internet, preying on our children.''
In the campaign ad, which began airing early last week, the Republican governor reassures her that he's doing something about online sexual predators by tripling the force of state investigators assigned to such cases.
Not to be outdone, the Democratic gubernatorial nominee, Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, ran out an ad the following day calling for the death penalty for repeat child molesters.
While Perdue and Taylor also have floated competing tax-cut proposals in recent weeks, it's their attempts to outdo each other in being tough on crime that play to the emotions of voters.
Crime is a time-tested issue for politicians at all levels, not only in the law-and-order South but across the country.
"Taking a position in favor of penalties for criminals is a win-win,'' said Ross Baker, a political science professor at Rutgers University in New Jersey. "The only people who are going to be offended are civil libertarians or people who are behind bars.''
On one hand, the emphasis on crime in campaigns seems ill timed.
It made sense for politicians like Richard Nixon to stress the need to crack down on hooligans in the late 1960s, when America's cities were erupting in street violence.
But crime has been down in recent years, largely due to demographics. Most violent crime is perpetrated by young men, but they don't make up as large a portion of the population as back when the baby-boom generation was coming of age.
However, several modern trends are at work that have put crime, both real and perceived, on voters' radar screens.
For one thing, Americans are exposed to more crime through the increasingly pervasive news media. If a crime is sensational enough, or if the victim is compelling enough, it's plastered on TV screens everywhere, no matter where it occurred.
"In the past, we were aware of crime that took place in our community,'' said Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia. "Now, we are sensitized to crime across a nation of 300 million people. ... That may make people believe that crime is far worse than it is.''
But there's also evidence that crime against children is on the rise, crime made possible by the advent of the Internet.
Just a few years ago, adult sexual predators couldn't hide behind their computers and try to lure naive young people into danger.
Bullock said computer technology has made voters particularly wary of crime against children.
"It's a relatively new fear,'' he said. "There have been a number of high-profile incidents of children being kidnapped and abused.''
Baker said the popularity of NBC's series of "Dateline'' episodes involving investigations of sexual predators is an example of how the issue plays with voters.
Between Georgia's gubernatorial candidates, the two political scientists argue that it helps Taylor more than Perdue to be seen as tough on crime because Taylor is a Democrat.
Voters expect Perdue, the Republican, to take a no-nonsense attitude with criminals because the GOP has that reputation, again going back at least to Nixon.
"It's been a weak spot for Democrats,'' Baker said. "A pair of issues Democrats have always been hit hard with by Republicans is that they're soft on defense and soft on crime.''
Indeed, Taylor has acted throughout his career as if he believes it's important to seen as an anti-crime public servant.
On the campaign trail and in ads, he touts his role as former Gov. Zell Miller's Senate floor leader in steering a "two-strikes-and-you're-out'' constitutional amendment cracking down on repeat offenders through the General Assembly in 1994.
He also frequently mentions that, as lieutenant governor in 2000, he was the prime mover in creating a DNA database for convicted felons.
"The crime issue is one that Mark Taylor has always tried to connect himself with,'' Bullock said. "It may serve to blunt charges Republicans make against Democrats of being too liberal.''
Baker said that at the national level, voters' fear of domestic crime has been taken over by worries over terrorists and illegal immigrants.
Perdue stayed out of this year's debate in the General Assembly over a state version of immigration reform being pushed by Senate Republicans. Before the session, in fact, he characterized illegal immigration as a federal issue.
But with the Senate legislation now the law of the land and Congress failing to act on a comprehensive reform bill, the governor has stepped to the forefront.
Twelve days before he unveiled his initiative aimed at online predators, Perdue announced plans to more aggressively go after people - typically illegal immigrants - who use false documents to obtain driver's licenses.
He's running an ad on illegal immigration, too.
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