The first of three Friday polls: CNN says Michelle Nunn, Jason Carter leading races

This weekend will be awash in polls. An AJC-sponsored survey will be out this morning, as will a separate on from Channel 2 Action News. But we'll start with a new CNN poll conducted with live callers -- a rarity in Georgia this year -- that shows the top-ticket Democrats with small leads within the margin of error. The Senate toplines:

-- Republican David Perdue: 44 percent;

-- Libertarian Amanda Swafford: 5 percent;

For governor:

-- Democrat Jason Carter: 48 percent;

-- Republican Gov. Nathan Deal: 46 percent;

-- Libertarian Andrew Hunt: 6 percent;

The most interesting tidbit from the CNN analysis:

"The Georgia electorate appears to be the most pro-Obama group of likely voters in the 11 states CNN has surveyed this fall," [CNN Director Keating]Holland said. "That's not saying much -- Obama's approval rating among Georgia likely voters is only 44%. But that's still better than the high-30s he gets in states like Iowa and new Hampshire, not to mention the low 30s in Kansas and Alaska."

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Since things are so close, outside groups are stepping up their television buys in the Senate race's final days.

We picked up word that the National Republican Senatorial Committee added another $200,000 to its buy in Atlanta and Macon, bringing its total to $625,000 for the final week. Also, the Michelle Nunn-aligned Emily's List added $200,000 to its buys in Savannah, Macon, Augusta and Albany for this week,, bringing its total to $600,000.

In addition, Americans For Prosperity -- a conservative group funded in part by the Koch Brothers -- is spending $25,000 on phone banking against Nunn.

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U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., is in town today to stump with David Perdue, who hopes to join him in the upper chamber. They are doing a public event in McDonough at 1 p.m., but we also hear the pair plan to stop by a golf fundraiser for state Rep. Dale Rutlege and state Sen. Rick Jeffares at Eagle Brook Country Club in Locust Grove. Because state lobbyists need love, too.

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The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee is telling donors that Georgia could be its "tipping point state," highlighting the recent quote from President Barack Obama about Michelle Nunn and an article by Nate Silver calling the Peach State "Democrats' path of last resort." From a fundraising email last night:

"Will you pitch in so we can turn Georgia blue, win the "tipping-point state," and STOP a Republican Senate takeover? We’ll match your gift until midnight tonight!"

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Here's how Republican candidate for U.S. Senate David Perdue answered one more question about outsourcing from Scott Slade of WSB Radio (AM750/95.5FM):

The entire interview will be broadcast between 8 and 8:15 a.m. on Sunday.

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One of our number-crunching friends has been tooling around with the secretary of state’s new database of registered voters, and has these tidbits:

-- The 5th congressional district of U.S. Rep. John Lewis now has the most registered voters (413,107) of Georgia’s 14 districts. The district is 56 percent African-American.

-- The 14th District in northwest Georgia, represented by U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, has the fewest (316,900) voters. It’s 82 percent white.

-- In the Gwinnett-based 7th District, represented by U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, the combined black (18 percent), Asian (5 percent), and Hispanic (5 percent) population marks it as a future gelectoral battleground.

Our number-cruncher also produced the chart below, which you need to keep in mind as poll numbers roll through this weekend. In the 2010 general election, Republicans averaged margins of 55 percent. The fact that you see polls showing few Republicans above 50 percent is a measure of how much the landscape has changed in a mere four years:

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Republican incumbent Gary Black is out with his first TV ad in his bid for re-election as state agriculture commissioner:

Our AJC colleague Nicholas Fouriezos says the ad may be intended to blunt charges from Democratic challenger Chris Irvin that Black has let safety standards slide and favored large agribusinesses.

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Part of Gov. Nathan Deal's top-to-bottom review of the education system will include trying to devise a way to give top teachers merit raises.

He told a gathering of the Georgia School Superintendents Association in Athens yesterday that the panel would be tasked with coming up with a reliable metric to measure teacher performance, partly so the best educators can be compensated so they won't leave their gigs for administrative jobs.

“I know why teachers are worried about that kind of merit-based pay. They don’t want politics injected into the process. And neither do I,” he said. “The real measure is what is the growth of children in that classroom.”

The details will be hashed out by the panel, and Deal said his staff would recruit several from their ranks to serve should he win.

"In this big debate about how we fund public education, one thing we should all keep in mind, is that it doesn't benefit us in the long run to point fingers at each other," he said. "We're all partners in this process."

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The state department of economic development's accolades don't usually become political fodder.

But that's what happened when the agency was named the "best in class" in a survey of executives and site selection analysts released this week at the International Economic Development Council Annual Conference.

Gov. Nathan Deal's aides were quick to point out that this was the same agency that Democrat Jason Carter once said was a political office whose workers "set up ribbon cuttings."

Deal spokesman Brian Robinson sent a dispatch from London -- there's an American-style football game over there, it seems -- saying the award demonstrates Carter's "addiction to hollow rhetoric on topics he doesn't understand."

"Just like our three rankings as the best state in the nation in which to do business, this recognition provides yet another example of how Gov. Deal has done everything the right way when it comes to bringing jobs to Georgia," said Robinson.

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We still don’t know who’s behind it, but the group calling itself Coalition for Georgia's Future has popped this TV ad extolling Gov. Nathan Deal’s record in education:

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Republican activist and attorney Jason Shepherd has put out a warning to friends: Take no selfies while voting. From a piece he’s posted here:

Georgia law prohibits the use of cameras during much of the voting process. Taking a selfie while voting or outside the door of a polling place holding up a bumper sticker for the candidate you are voting for, or a photo of your ballot could put you in violation of the code.

The Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.) Section 21-2-413(e) states, “No person shall use photographic or other electronic monitoring or recording devices, cameras, or cellular telephones while such person is in a polling place while voting is taking place.”

Cameras, Shepherd says, can be used for voter intimidation or by someone who has been paid for his vote -- and needs to document the transaction.

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South Carolina House Speaker Bobby Harrell pleaded guilty Thursday to misconduct in office charges and agreed to immediately resign – the second leader of a Southern legislature to run into trouble this week. From USA Today:

Harrell pleaded guilty to six counts of misconduct during a hearing at the Richland County Judicial Center. As part of the plea agreement, he was sentenced to six years in prison, which was suspended, and instead given three years of probation with a $30,000 fine.

Earlier this week, a grand jury indicted Michael Hubbard, speaker of the Alabama House, on 23 felony ethics counts.

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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