With a little help from her friend Sarah Palin, former Secretary of State Karen Handel is now the front runner in the GOP governor's race, according to the results of a new statewide poll released Saturday. Atlanta radio station WSB reports:
Bolstered by an endorsement from conservative superstar Sarah Palin, former Secretary of State Karen Handel appears to have surged into the lead of the Republican race for governor, according to a new statewide poll conducted for the Georgia Newspaper Partnership.Mason-Dixon managing director Brad Coker told the Athens Banner-Herald that his company decided to conduct a second Republican poll because it noticed movement in Handel's numbers early last week:
The poll of 400 likely Republican primary voters taken Thursday and Friday put Handel in first place with 29 percent of Georgians polled saying she would get their vote. That's up 6 percentage points from an earlier poll that was partially taken before Palin's endorsement on Monday.
The change has left previous frontrunner, state Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine in second place with 22 percent and former U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal at 20 percent.
Of Republicans polled, another 13 percent said they support former state Senate leader Eric Johnson, and 13 percent were undecided. Other candidates received 3 percent.
The results of the new Mason-Dixon Polling & Research poll showed a shift from a poll the company released Wednesday. That sampling was taken July 8 through July 13.
The earlier poll had Oxendine the leader with 31 percent of the vote, followed by Handel with 23 percent, Deal with 18 percent and Johnson at 6 percent.
Mason-Dixon conducted both polls for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and 12 other Georgia newspapers. Both have a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.
"Handel now is the frontrunner, and Oxendine is fighting Deal for a spot in the runoff," Coker said. "The Palin endorsement definitely helped."In addition to her endorsement, Gov. Palin recorded a robo-call message to defend Handel against accusations from the Deal and Oxendene campaigns that she was soft on gay rights and abortion issues. The calls went out to thousands of GOP voters in the Peach State, AJC political columnist Jim Galloway wrote Thursday:
In the new poll, 30 percent of respondents said they were more likely to back Handel because of the Palin endorsement. Two percent said they were less likely, and 68 percent said it didn't matter.
Said Palin:Some in the media have framed the race in terms of an early face off between Gov. Palin and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich on his home turf. The Palin endorsement for Handel was announced Monday. The very next day, Gingrich said he was supporting Handel's rival, Nathan Deal:
“The primary is really close. So Karen’s opponents are kind of saying those crazy things about her. Please just get the truth for yourself. Karen is a pro-life, pro-family constitutionalist – a Republican who’s going to fight for what is right.”
“Because she is taking on the status quo, well, Karen’s opponents aren’t always telling the truth about her views on those issues that we hold dear….”
Since Palin’s endorsement of Handel, both Oxendine and Deal – in TV spots – have sought to undermine the only woman in the contest. An Oxendine flyer focusing solely on Handel – barely mentioning his own campaign – hit mailboxes Thursday.
Deal benefited from an endorsement by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Twenty-six percent said it made them more likely to support Deal. Five percent said it made them less likely to support him, and 69 percent said it didn't matter.Georgians will go to the polls Tuesday to vote in the primaries of the two major political parties.
Carolyn Draper, 67, a retiree from Bartow County, is leaning toward Handel. Palin's endorsement is a big deal to her, she said.
"It influences me," she said. "I am a very conservative person, and I have very conservative values, and I think Sarah Palin does, too."
Dan McLagan, spokesman for the Handel campaign, called the new poll results "good news" for his candidate.
"Deal and Oxendine have spent more than $1 million on negative ads and Georgians have rejected them," he said. "It must be very frustrating for the good ol' boys."