A new poll of the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Georgia shows former secretary of state Karen Handel moving into a statistical tie for first place with businessman David Perdue, inching ahead of congressman Jack Kingston. The poll found among likely voters, Perdue has 22 percent support, Handel has 21 percent, and Kingston has 17 percent. Additionally, congressmen Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey polled at 14 percent and 12 percent, respectively. Eleven percent say they are undecided.
The poll, conducted on behalf of Morris News and WAGA-TV, was conducted through automated phone calls and online and a 3.5 percent margin of error.
This is the best showing in a poll so far for Handel, who has suffered from poor fundraising but has received a boost from some high-profile endorsements, including from Sarah Palin, Jan Brewer, and Georgia-based talk-show host Erick Erickson. Perdue has led in every primary poll since February, and he still has a 5.3-point lead in the Real Clear Politics poll average. The south Georgia-based Kingston campaign, meanwhile, has been running ads in the Atlanta TV market and recently received the endorsement of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. While Kingston has been running a close second to Perdue, this is the first poll since February that shows him in third place.
Georgia Republican voters have already started early voting ahead of the May 20 primary. Because there are five major candidates for the nomination, it's likely the winner will not receive a majority and will proceed to a runoff with the second-place finisher. That runoff election will be held on July 22.
All the candidates are hoping to face off against Democrat Michelle Nunn, who is likely to win her primary easily, in the general election to succeed retiring Republican Saxby Chambliss. Chambliss was first elected in 2002, and while Georgia has voted consistently Republican statewide since then, Democrats consider Nunn one of their best shots to win a seat.
Update: The Kingston campaign released an internal poll Thursday afternoon showing the congressman in the lead with 20 percent support, while Perdue has 17 percent and Handel has 14 percent.
Kingston pollster John McLaughlin comments: "With less than three weeks to go until the Republican primary, Jack Kingston leads the crowded field. Kingston having the highest overall net positive opinion rating suggests that he still has room to grow. It is also important to note that this survey of likely Republican primary election voters was drawn from a sample of past Republican primary voters and new registrants. So far, this is the only published survey of this quality."