The open Georgia Senate race continues to be one of the most intriguing campaigns in the nation. While legacy contender Michelle Nunn – the daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn (D) – is the consensus Democratic candidate, the Republican nomination is far from settled but clear trends are developing.
Two polls were just released. The first, from the conservative Insider Advantage research firm (April 27-29; 737 Georgia Republican primary voters) gives former Dollar General CEO David Perdue, the cousin of former Gov. Sonny Perdue (R), a slight lead with 22 percent support among the polling respondents. Climbing to second place is former Secretary of State Karen Handel, who notches 21 percent. Savannah Rep. Jack Kingston is third with 17 percent, Athens Rep. Paul Broun fourth at 14 percent and Marietta Rep. Phil Gingrey drops to the bottom but still posts a competitive 12 percent.
Upon seeing these numbers, Rep. Kingston countered by publicizing his own McLaughlin & Associates poll taken within the same time period as Insider Advantage’s but with a smaller sample size (April 28-29; 400 Georgia Republican primary voters). According to these similar results, it is Kingston who places first with 20 percent, followed by Perdue at 17 percent, Handel posting 14 percent, Gingrey 13 percent, and Broun dropping all the way back to 8 percent support.
Since this race is so close and all five major candidates can still chart a path to victory, a great deal of attention will be paid to Georgia between now and the May 20th primary. Since no contender will reach the outright majority mark, the top two finishers will advance to a mid-summer July 22 run-off election.
The two polls, and others taken shortly before them, clearly identify tangible trends. First, Perdue, who has so far successfully parlayed his status as a non-politician businessman with a top record of achievement, is in the best position of the five to secure a run-off position. All of the latest polls show him occupying either first or second place. The ability to lump all of his opponents in a “politician box” and campaign from the outside has definitely played to his advantage. The fact that he enjoys residual name ID from his relative who served eight years as governor is also a key asset.
Secondly, the latest surveys are detecting upward movement for Handel, but such momentum is likely short-lived. While she may be heading to the top tier in polling, she is dead last in fundraising, securing only $905,892 through March 31st and had just $286,795 remaining in her campaign treasury. This compares to Rep. Kingston raising more than $5.33 million (over $2 million in the bank), Perdue attracting $3.37 million, Rep. Gingrey raising $1.86 million – but still having over $2.4 million cash-on-hand – and Rep. Broun pulling in $1.46 million.
On the other end of the momentum spectrum is Rep. Gingrey. Originally thought to be a potential favorite for a run-off position, the congressman’s effort has failed to catch fire and no late survey projects him in any of the top three positions. Rep. Broun has strong support among the conservative grassroots, but he enters the stretch drive with less money in the bank than any other candidate ($224,715 on March 31).
All five candidates are still in position to qualify for the run-off as we enter the last three weeks of this important open seat Senate race. The Democrats will play hard here in the general election because it is one of only two Republican seats where they have a reasonable chance of winning. Right now, the most likely run-off projects to Perdue and Kingston, but this race is far from over and much movement still can, and likely will, occur.