With less than five days before the Republican runoff for the U.S. Senate nomination in Georgia, signs are growing that stalwart conservative Rep. Jack Kingston will emerge triumphant in his nip-and-tuck battle with the more moderate David Perdue.
National eyes are on the race for the seat of retiring GOP Sen. Saxby Chambliss. This is widely considered one of the few seats that Democrats feel strongly they can seize from Republican hands, in large part because their candidate is businesswoman Michelle Nunn, daughter of much-revered former Sen. Sam Nunn.
A recent Rasmussen Reports poll showed Nunn beating Perdue by a margin of 45 percent to 42 percent among all likely voters statewide, and beating Kingston 47 percent to 41 percent.
"If Jack is the nominee, we are going to see big money pouring into Georgia in a wave we've never seen before in our state's modern political history," Atlanta public relations man and veteran conservative activist Phil Kent told Newsmax. "National Democrats and groups such as [pro-choice] EMILY's List will go all-out for Michelle Nunn, but national conservatives will make a special effort to elect Jack Kingston."
According to a just-completed Insider Advantage poll of likely voters in the July 22 runoff, Kingston edges Perdue, a millionaire businessman and cousin of former Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue, by a margin of 42 percent to 41 percent statewide. An earlier Survey USA poll gave Kingston the advantage over Perdue by a much larger margin of 52 percent to 41 percent.
Backed by Steve Forbes, Newt Gingrich and most state tea party leaders, 22-year Rep. Kingston has also secured support from "regular" party leaders — surprising, given Perdue's association with the moneyed "establishment" in the Peach State GOP.
"The national press will have to do a little homework on this one," said Kent. "Jack Kingston is the favorite of grass-roots conservatives such as [Atlanta Tea Party co-founder] Debbie Dooley. But he has also won support from what is considered the 'establishment,' such as BIPAC [Business and Industry Political Action Committee]."
Since the initial primary in May, in which Perdue led Kingston 30 percent to 26 percent, two of the three other major candidates have come out strongly for the incumbent congressman. In addition, such revered party figures as Mack Mattingly, who became Georgia's first Republican senator since Reconstruction in 1981, and former Rep. John Linder, considered the father of the "Fair Tax," have weighed in for Kingston.
Kingston's current front-runner spot is also due to his drawing a sharp contrast to some of Perdue's less than conservative-sounding positions. Where Kingston opposed the Wall Street bailout, his businessman-opponent dubbed it "a decent investment that came back to us."
Where Kingston proudly notes he has never voted for a tax increase, he has slammed Perdue for his remarks to the Macon Telegraph that increasing tax revenues is a "reality" to get the United States "out of the economic ditch."
Where Kingston makes no secret that he is "100 percent pro-life" and supports the traditional definition of marriage, Perdue has said next to nothing on cultural issues.
Perdue supporters noted that he does have some backing on the right, notably from 2012 Republican presidential hopeful Herman Cain. But they usually are hard-pressed to cite many other "name" conservatives in their man's corner.
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.
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