Georgia Republicans head to the polls today to vote for their party's nominee for the governorship. Former Georgia secretary of state Karen Handel, one of Sarah Palin's "Mama Grizzlies," currently leads her primary opponent, former congressman Nathan Deal, 47 percent to 42 percent, according to Politics Daily. A Landmark poll, on the other hand, gives Deal a two-point lead over Handel coming out of last weekend. Palin was stumping for Handel in Atlanta yesterday, and both mama grizzlies were in attack mode:
But if Sarah Palin’s visit to Atlanta this afternoon did anything, it made clear that Handel would finish the runoff campaign as she started it – with a furious volley aimed at Nathan Deal and members of the state Legislature who back him.
Said Handel, after climbing the stage to appear with her husband Steve, Palin and her husband Todd:“Governor Palin was underestimated, too. She took on the powerful career politicians. And no one thought she could win, but she did. And she pushed through real ethics reform that had the political elite screaming in their smoke-filled backroom. And that’s exactly what we’re going to do in this campaign.
“My opponent has virtually the entire political establishment working with him, for him, and attacking me. And they’re doing it because they’re terrified of change. They wanted to keep doing business with the state and having their secret deals and keeping the free trips and free meals. They are fighting with everything they’ve got to keep the status quo. Well, I’ve got some news. They’re going to lose.”
The AJC's Jim Galloway notes that two members of current Republican governor Sonny Perdue's inner circle were attending the Handel event Monday. Still, Deal has the endorsements of all but one of his former Republican colleagues in the House (Rep. Tom Price supports Handel) as well as former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee.
The outgoing governor has not endorsed either candidate, but Perdue will need to rally the party behind today's winner in order to defeat his 2002 Democratic opponent, former governor Roy Barnes. Barnes trails both Deal and Handel in the polls, but he is within the margin of error against Handel, and Real Clear Politics is calling this race a "toss up." Perdue was the first Republican governor in Georgia since Reconstruction. Georgia was the last state in the old Confederacy to have elected a Republican to the governer's office.