Georgia's former secretary of state, Karen Handel
, who made it into Tuesday's upcoming runoff election for the GOP gubernatorial nomination with the help of a Sarah Palin endorsement, leads former Rep. Nathan Deal
by 47 percent to 42 percent, with 11 percent undecided, according to a Mason-Dixon Research poll
conducted for the Georgia Newspaper Partnership.
The winner will face Democratic nominee Roy Barnes
who served one term as governor between 1999 and 2003.
Handel had won the July 20 primary with 34 percent of the vote with Deal second at 23 percent, followed by former state Sen. Eric Johnson at 20 percent and state Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine at 17 percent.
The poll found that Deal is now getting 48 percent of the vote that went to the also-rans. But Mason-Dixon's Brad Coker predicted that fewer than half of those who voted in the primary will turn out for the runoff, leaving open the question of whether Deal will be able to get those supporters to the polls.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
described the Handel-Deal contest as "a bruising campaign," and it's one that has become a kind of proxy fight between Republicans who were center-stage in the 2008 presidential election.
Palin, who plans to campaign for Handel
on the eve of the runoff, said in her original endorsement
that while Handel had been "considered an underdog candidate (more power to her!), this pro-life, pro-constitutionalist with a can-do attitude and a record of fighting for ethics in government is ready to serve in the governor's office."
That brought a retort from Deal's wife
, who said in remarks prepared for a campaign ad: "Alaska is a far cry from Georgia and I'm pretty sure Ms. Palin can't smell our peaches from her front porch. This is not just about who wears lipstick, it's about who will govern this state with integrity and conviction."
Former GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee has backed Deal
. In doing so, Huckabee said, "I've been watching this race develop for some time; and as of late I've become increasingly concerned by the negative tone the race is taking."
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