Boosted by major endorsements this week, ex-Congressman Nathan Deal and former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel are tied for the lead in the state’s Republican primary contest for governor, according to a new Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely voters in Georgia.
Both, however, are far short of the number of votes needed to avoid a runoff.
The survey finds Deal and Handel each earning 25 percent support. State Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine, the early leader in the Republican race, runs a close third with 20 percent of the vote.
The survey of 943 likely Republican primary voters in Georgia was conducted on July 13 by Rasmussen Reports.
Eric Johnson, who recently stepped down as a state senator, trails in the four-way race, capturing 13 percent support. Three percent prefer some other candidate, and a sizable 14 percent are undecided.
If no candidate captures a majority of the vote in Tuesday’s primary, the top two vote-getters will face each other in an Aug. 10 runoff.
Deal and Handel both have received endorsements this week that mirror the ongoing battle for the direction of the national Republican Party. Deal has been endorsed by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia.
Handel is one of the latest women candidates nationally to be endorsed by former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, the GOP’s 2008 vice presidential nominee. Gingrich and Palin are major contenders for the party’s presidential nomination in 2012.
Primaries are notoriously difficult to assess because of the generally low voter turnout. Georgia primary voters have been allowed to vote since early June, and, despite the contentious gubernatorial race, turnout has been predictably light.
In such an environment, high-profile endorsements from people like Palin and Gingrich can have a huge impact during the final week of a campaign.
Last December, Oxendine earned 28 percent to Handel’s 14 percent and Deal’s 13 percent in Rasmussen Reports’ previous survey of the GOP primary contest.
But Deal ran strongest against likely Democratic nominee Roy Barnes in potential match-ups tested by Rasmussen Reports in May, leading Barnes 47 percent to 40 percent. Oxendine and Handel edged Barnes by nearly identical margins — 43 percent to 39 percent and 42 percent to 39 percent, respectively.
Rasmussen Reports will release its latest findings on the Georgia Democratic primary for governor on Friday.
Indicative of the conservative bent of Georgia’s GOP primary electorate, however, are the findings on three key national issues.
Eighty-nine percent of GOP primary voters favor repeal of the new national healthcare bill, with 84 percent who strongly favor it.
Eighty-nine percent support passage of an immigration law like the new one in Arizona in their own state. Just 11 percent agree with the Justice Department decision to challenge Arizona’s law in court, but 84 percent disagree.
Handel and Deal run strongest — and evenly — among voters who strongly favor repeal of the healthcare plan, support a law like Arizona’s in Georgia, and disagree with the Justice Department challenge.
Sixty-seven percent of all Republican primary voters favor a welcoming immigration policy that excludes only national security threats, criminals, and those who come here to live off the U.S. welfare system. Twenty-three percent oppose a policy like this.
Deal, who resigned from the House to run for governor just after he voted against the healthcare bill, is viewed very favorably by 22 percent of the state’s GOP primary voters and very unfavorably by eight percent. One in five don’t know enough about him to venture any kind of opinion.
For Handel, very favorables are 19 percent and very unfavorables are 7 percent. Sixteen percent have no opinion of her.
Seventeen percent have a very favorable opinion of Oxendine, while 13 percent view him very unfavorably. Eleven percent have no opinion of the longtime insurance commissioner.
Johnson has very favorables of 14 percent and very unfavorables of 5 percent. But nearly one-in-three primary voters (30 percent) have no opinion of him.
Among GOP Primary voters, Deal runs slightly stronger among men, while Handel does better among women.
Deal and Handel run strongest among conservatives, while GOP moderates and liberals give a modest edge to Johnson.
Just 7 percent of Georgia Republican primary voters approve of the job President Obama is doing. Ninety-four percent disapprove.
GOP Governor Sonny Perdue is term-limited and cannot seek re-election. Seventy-one percent of voters in his own party like how he is performing as governor. Twenty-eight percent disapprove of his job performance.
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