It's hard for me to say how much listening he's doing, but the man is crossing the state, and he's talking to people. I've seen him in Macon three times in the last few months.
When I mentioned this to his driver this evening, he smiled and said, "You've missed a few."
There certainly are some important Democrat politicos supporting other candidates here, but Barnes is planting an unmistakable flag in Macon, home to many Democrat voters.
Barnes tonight with Macon Mayor Robert Reichert.
Tonight, meeting with about 70 people in a Macon club called Studio 32, Barnes said the the state's Republican leadership has been "short sighted." He twice called state budget cuts, to education and charitable services, "criminal."
He said North Carolina is "leaving us in the dust on economic development" by focusing on infrastructure, and particularly passenger rail.
In response to a detailed and, I thought, tough question from involved Macon Democrat Amy Morton, Barnes laid out four years of priorities if elected:
Year 1: Shore up the fiscal situation. Focus on education, stop austerity cuts, help employment.I'm not sure there are ways to pay for that without a tax increase, but we'll digress from that for now.
Year 2: Transportation, "and education again."
Year 3: Recessionary budget problems should be over and emergency measures from the years before should be re-assessed. Finish dealing with water issues.
Year 4: All education.
Barnes promised to "stay away from the nut issues." He mentioned John Oxendine potentially firing guns off the back porch of the governor's mansion, though he never used the words "John" or "Oxendine."
He compared this race to the governor's races of 1962 in Georgia and Alabama. Georgia elected Carl Sanders. Alabama elected George Wallace, who stood in the school house doors and defied integration. Atlanta became the leading city of the south.
"Listen," he said. "Nancy Reagan is in favor of stem cell research. Have we gotten that extreme in this state?"
Now, the first part of this post was about Barnes' momentum in this campaign, which isn't so young anymore. The rest, I hope, was newsy.
But the parts about Barnes' grassroots popularity occurred to me before I received the statement below from state Rep. DuBose Porter, commenting on the $2.7 million Barnes' campaign says it has raised:
Dublin -- "No one has ever questioned his ability to raise money. While he has been dialing for dollars, I have been out working and listening to the voices of the people. I have been asking Georgians for their concerns while he has been asking for their cash. We have already seen what happened between a big money versus a grassroots campaign and I have choosen to run a grassroots campaign."If the response to Barnes is the same around the state as I've seen in Macon and Fort Valley, he may be running a money campaign and a grassroots campaign.