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Biden snubs Georgia Republican. Is it a case of political payback?

Vice President Biden in Dawsonville, Ga. touting the $33.5 million in stimulus grants to help bring broadband access to rural Americans
Vice President Joe Biden went to Georgia on Thursday to tout the latest Recovery Act strategy: investing in Internet access for rural Americans.

With Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue and the president of Impulse Manufacturing, a sheet-metal fabrication company in Dawsonville, Ga., at his side, Biden announced $182 million in funding for broadband projects in 17 states. That seed money, to be matched by $46 million in private-sector funds, is a down payment on the administration's plan to spend $7.2 billion on the broadband initiative nationwide.

“This is what the Recovery Act is all about -- sparking new growth, tapping into the ingenuity of the American people and giving folks the tools they need to help build a new economy in the 21st century,” the vice president said.

Noticeably absent from the proceedings was the lawmaker who represents Dawsonville in Congress, Rep. Nathan Deal. Turns out that Deal, a Republican, voted against the $787-billion stimulus package that sparked all this federal spending, but the White House doesn't usually let that stand in the way of a good photo op.

Even if they had invited the congressman, it's not clear that  he would have shown up. “Had Congressman Deal been invited to this event, he most certainly would have made every effort to attend,” said spokeswoman Stephanie Mayfield.

Why the fudge? For one thing, proximity to a Democratic White House can be toxic for a Republican. Just ask Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, whose appearance with President Obama endorsing the stimulus earlier this year has been used against him in his primary battle for Senate.

For another, bashing the Obama White House is still good politics in Georgia's Republican Party circles. Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) put out a statement criticizing Biden's appearance: “This administration is on an epic spending binge that is going to result in one serious fiscal hangover," he said. "Joe Biden would have us believe he is Santa Claus today, but he’ll look like the Grinch who stole Christmas when the stimulus bill comes due.”

Deal, who is currently running for governor, didn't let either his no-vote or his no-show curb his enthusiasm for the project.

"I have continued to support broadband deployment, particularly in rural areas," he said in a statement. "While I did not support the stimulus package, I support the general purpose of this project. I am glad to see that money from the stimulus is finally going to good use, and I look forward to learning more about the specifics of this project."

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo: Vice President Joe Biden speaks at the Impulse Manufacturing plant in Dawsonville, Ga., as Gov. Sonny Perdue and company President Ron Baysden look on. Credit:Sara Guevara / Gainesville Times

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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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