POLITICAL NOTEBOOK: Woodall, Hice battle it out in Tuesday's runoff

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Both Jody Hice and Rob Woodall consider themselves underdogs in next week's runoff for the GOP nomination to replace U.S. Rep. John Linder.

Even though Woodall came out with a commanding lead in last month's primary -- a vote total that surprised even him -- he has kept on the offensive in his campaign. He was the least well-funded of the major players on July's ballot and doesn't want to lose momentum.

"We aren't going to be fine unless folks come out to vote," he said of Tuesday's runoff, which is likely to be decided by a small percentage of voters.

Hice, who came in second place, said he's been working hard to get his message out.

"We are an underdog in this, but we feel confident we're going to make up the difference," he said.

For both, the trick this week will be exciting voters. Runoff elections can be unpredictable, and all too often people stay home from the polls because they believe their candidate is safe. Neither feel that way.

The two men are as varied as staunch Republican candidates can be.

Hice is a preacher who can rail against the government with gusto. Woodall is an "aww shucks" kind of man who spent his last decade in Washington but believes himself to be a man of the people.

Woodall explains the complicated issues of earmarks in a federal system created so that line items are often the only way to solve issues such as transportation and water.

Hice is more black and white on the issue. He believes if Ga. Highway 316 deserves federal funding, a bill should be written for the highway specifically, not as an earmark in transportation legislation.

As the district of the bill's author, Gwinnett County and its neighbors have been key in the fight for the FairTax, a proposal to end the federal income tax in favor of a national sales tax, and Woodall believes the issue is central in the debate.

As Linder's former chief of staff and a co-author of a book on the subject, the Lawrenceville man says a vote for him is the only way to make the bill a reality, while Hice says he will be just as much of an advocate and is just as able to provide momentum.

While the styles are different, both campaigns are built on grassroots, and Hice got a big boost to that in the last few weeks with the backing of the local tea party movement.

"We have a lot of passionate people who believe as I do, and we've got a grassroots effort of people dedicated to turning around this country," Hice said. "That is what is resonating with people."

Woodall says his message is spreading from neighbor to neighbor through his "Freedom Forums" and from people who got help from Linder's congressional office over the years.

"There are people who are energized," he said. "My loyalty will never be to a group. It'll be to the voters of this district."