An internal poll released by Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle previewed an argument he’s likely to make over the next two months that’s focused less on his runoff opponent and more on Democrat Stacey Abrams.
The poll, which was funded by his campaign, showed 57 percent of primary voters believe Cagle is the “better” candidate to beat Abrams in the general election, while about 28 percent said Secretary of State Brian Kemp would be the tougher opponent.
Like other internal polls, the results are designed to show the candidate in a favorable light and should be viewed through that prism. But this poll, like others released by rival campaigns, offers clues on the strategy that Cagle will take ahead of the July 24 runoff against Kemp.
Abrams has become a national phenom after her decisive May 22 victory over former state Rep. Stacey Evans, attracting heaps of attention for her bid to be the nation’s first black female governor. She’s trying to flip the governor’s mansion for the first time in 16 years with a progressive message that breaks from decades of more centrist Democratic appeals.
It’s the third set of internal polls released in a week by the three rival candidates.
Abrams released a poll last week indicating she’d pursue a general election message focused on the economy and healthcare. And a Kemp poll over the weekend showed a neck-and-neck race and highlighted support from voters who backed two also-rans in last month’s primary.
The Cagle poll showed him with a double-digit edge over Kemp - 52-42 - among likely GOP voters. Only 5 percent of poll respondents were undecided.
“It’s encouraging to be in front by 10 points, but Team Cagle will triple every effort to ensure we talk to every voter in Georgia about what’s at stake on July 24,” said Cagle campaign manager Scott Binkley.
A separate poll conducted by Citizens for Georgia’s Future, a pro-Cagle outside group that can’t coordinate with his campaign, also released a poll Monday that showed Cagle with a 44-38 lead over Kemp.
“Casey has weathered the storm of attacks on him quite well,” said the group’s spokesman, Dan McLagan, who hinted at a coming barrage against Kemp.
“The storm of truth about Kemp’s lousy record is coming in on the radar as we speak.”
Kemp’s campaign downplayed the findings, pointing to a pre-election poll conducted by the same pollster in 2014 that showed Rep. Jack Kingston with a large runoff lead against David Perdue in the U.S. Senate race.
“How did that turn out? We all know that Casey Cagle is losing and it's only going to get worse,” said Kemp spokesman Ryan Mahoney.
Cagle and Kemp have talked little of who would be the more formidable November candidate, instead dueling over ideology and policy in a race to nail down the conservative voters likely to make up the largest bloc of the runoff electorate.
Here are other tidbits from the poll, which you can find here:
- About 71 percent of GOP voters have a favorable view of Cagle, compared to 64 percent for Kemp. Cagle’s unfavorable rating is at 20 percent, while Kemp’s is at 13 percent.
- The poll hints at the dangers of breaking with either President Donald Trump or Gov. Nathan Deal. Roughly nine in 10 Republicans approve of Trump’s performance and about three in four gave positive reviews of Deal.
Read more recent AJC stories on the Georgia race for governor