ATLANTA | Karen Handel has ridden a wave of growing support to pass Jack Kingston in the GOP Senate primary race to take second place and come within the margin of error with frontrunner David Perdue, according to a poll released this morning for Morris News.
Handel, Georgia’s former secretary of state, has steadily gained in recent surveys as former Nike CEO Perdue has held the top spot. Kingston, a Savannah congressman, has enjoyed little benefit from major investments in television spots that most Republican observers describe as ineffective.
Physicians and congressmen Paul Broun of Athens and Phil Gingrey of Marietta remain rooted in fourth and fifth places, respectively.
Perdue has the support of 22 percent, Handel 21 and Kingston 17, with Broun at 14 and Gingrey 12. Three percent was split between underfunded newcomers Art Gardner and Derrick Grayson. Still, 11 percent can’t make up their minds at the start of early voting.
The poll also shows Nathan Deal easily winning the Republican gubernatorial nomination on May 20 with support from two of every three primary voters. Former Dalton Mayor David Pennington holds 11 percent of the support while State Superintendent of Schools John Barge has 4 percent and 19 percent remain undecided.
InsiderAdvantage conducted the survey by automated telephone calls and online with Opinionsavvy on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday on behalf of Morris News and Fox5 of Atlanta. Responses by 737 likely primary voters were then selected at random to yield a 3.5 percent margin of error. The pollsters weighted the results to reflect the age, race and gender of the expected turnout.
“Kingston has been losing metro-Atlanta female support with his ‘folksy’ TV ads for weeks. Handel, who usually does not poll as well with female voters is picking up significant female support and is starting to leave both David Perdue and Jack Kingston substantially behind with women,” said Matt Towery, InsiderAdvantage’s CEO.
Handel’s campaign credits endorsements from Sarah Palin and Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, who have each stumped for her, as well as direct-mail and social-media messages targeted to long-time primary voters. Since Handel has always been outspent in all of her races, she’s had to be good at targeting in order to stretch her money.
“This is the third poll in a row showing Karen as the only candidate with momentum,” said Corry Bliss, Handel’s press secretary.
Pragmatic Republicans are seeing her as viable and a good matchup with Democrat Michelle Nunn in November, he said.
Kingston isn’t surrendering. He has a press event Friday in Atlanta with officials from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has endorsed him. The business group has begun running its own ads supporting the congressman, which veteran political observers say is better than his own campaigns