Former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel has surged into a virtual tie for first in the GOP Senate primary a month after receiving the endorsement of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who seems to have helped her gain support from suburban women.
According to the Augusta Chronicle, a new Insider Advantage poll shows establishment candidate David Perdue with 22%; Handel with 21%; Rep. Jack Kingston with 17%; Rep. Paul Broun with 14%; Rep. Phil Gingrey with 12%; and 11% are undecided before the May 20 primary. The poll was conducted April 27-29, and the margin of error is +/- 3.5 percentage points.
Insider Advantage’s Matt Towery said “Kingston has been losing metro-Atlanta female support with his ‘folksy’ TV ads for weeks” and Handel has been “picking up significant female support and is starting to leave both David Perdue and Jack Kingston substantially behind with women.”
He also said the “other candidates show little if any movement” and “if Handel were to spend any degree of significant money on broadcast TV ads in the final two weeks, her momentum could take her to first place, leaving Perdue and Kingston battling for a spot in the runoff.”
Perdue has been under fire after he mocked Handel and said she was not qualified to serve in Congress because she lacked a college degree, even though only 27.8 percent of Georgians over 25 have college degrees. The vast majority of Georgians, including Georgia’s Lieutenant Governor and Rep. Lynn Westmoreland, have just high school diplomas like Handel.
Perdue apologized a week after the Atlanta Journal-Constitution released a video of his remarks, but Georgia state Senator Josh McKoon was not buying the “apology,” saying it reeked of “political expediency.”
“Last week when asked about the comments, David’s spokesman said they were just based on facts that are a matter of public record. The next day, the same spokesman said he wasn’t aware of a suggestion that an apology was in order,” McKoon said then. “After a week of receiving negative national attention, and being ridiculed as an out-of-touch self-funding elitist who thinks he can buy this election, David’s political consultants have seen the writing on the wall.”
Palin endorsed Handel on March 27, emphasizing Handel’s pro-life credentials and proven history of cutting spending. She campaigned for Handel on April 2 and slammed Perdue for denigrating Handel and Georgians who did not have fancy college degrees. In Handel’s case, she left an abusive home to go into the workforce and become a self-made woman. Democrat Michelle Nunn, who many believe is a test-case for how a female Democrat can do in Georgia ahead of a potential Hillary Clinton presidential run, has been raising an impressive amount of money, and Palin said Handel was not only the best candidate to win in the general election but to also shield Georgia Republicans from the phony “war on women” attacks from Democrats.
Since Palin’s endorsement, Handel was within the margin of error for second in an Insider Advantage Poll taken two weeks ago, gained a net of eight points in another Survey USA poll, and is essentially tied for first in the most recent Insider Advantage poll.
Handel campaign’s first radio ad only featured Palin. And her first television ad prominently featured Palin as well. And Insider Advantage’s Matt Towery suggested those ads were the only ones that were working, as other candidates have been stuck in place in the polls or losing momentum.
“Perdue’s ads have grown stale and are yielding little new support and Kingston’s ads are actually continuing to damage him in the important demographics of women and independents,” Towery said.
Handel’s campaign told the Chronicle that Handel’s momentum has come from Palin’s endorsement in addition to Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s. Brewer endorsed Handel and assured Georgians she was the choice for conservatives and those who are pro-enforcement on immigration issues.