Gov. Nathan Deal is riding into the final months of his second term as governor as the most popular political figure in Georgia. And that could put him in prime position to influence the race to replace him.
The latest Atlanta Journal-Constitution/Channel 2 Action News poll shows 63 percent of likely voters approve of Deal’s performance, while only 1 in 5 disapprove. The high marks came from across the political spectrum, and traversed gender, generational, racial and education lines.
Nearly half of Democrats and 64 percent of independents gave the governor favorable reviews, along with 83 percent of Republicans. More than half of voters under 44 approved of his performance, as well as two-thirds of voters over 65.
Georgians with high school diplomas supported him at nearly the same rate as those with advanced college degrees. Roughly half of African-American Georgians gave him solid reviews, along with nearly three-quarter of white voters. And he polled almost as strongly among women as men.
The numbers echo an AJC poll from earlier this year that showed roughly half of Democrats and 85 percent of Republicans approve of the way he’s handled his job.
And they show his popularity has far surpassed Trump, who has strong support from Republicans but abysmal backing from Democrats and independents.
The numbers suggest Deal could play a pivotal part in November’s race between Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp – if he chooses to do so.
That’s a complicated question. Deal gave Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle his tepid endorsement a week before the runoff – and then was promptly overwhelmed by President Donald Trump’s surprise tweet embracing Kemp. That Trump move, we learned later, came at the behest of former Gov. Sonny Perdue.
Deal vouched for Kemp at a rally shortly after the runoff, giving the secretary of state his full-throated support. But he’s since had little public role since then in his campaign for governor – and has resisted chances to criticize Abrams.
Kemp, meanwhile, has wasted no time in cozying up to Deal, invoking his pro-business initiatives at every turn. And Abrams, too, has warm words for the governor – chastising his refusal to expand the Medicaid program but praising his criminal justice overhaul and “religious liberty” veto.