Two polls and three Republicans at top of U.S. Senate race

Two U.S. Senate polls released Thursday disagree about who’s on top, but they do concur on this: Georgia’s Republican race for Saxby Chambliss’ seat has been winnowed down to three candidates in the final two weeks of campaigning.

A Morris News Service/WAGA-TV poll, conducted by InsiderAdvantage, gives the week to the only woman in the GOP field. From Walter Jones of MNS:

Karen Handel has ridden a wave of growing support to pass Jack Kingston in the GOP Senate primary race to take second place and come within the margin of error with front-runner David Perdue....

U.S. Reps. Paul Broun, of Athens, and Phil Gingrey, of Marietta, remain rooted in fourth and fifth places, respectively.

In the latest poll, Perdue has the support of 22 percent; Handel, 21 percent; Kingston, 17 percent; Broun, 14 percent; and Gingrey, 12 percent. Three percent were split between underfunded newcomers Art Gardner and Derrick Grayson, and 11 percent were undecided.

The release of the MNS/WAGA poll precipitated the Kingston campaign to release what it called internal polling memo that put the Savannah congressman on top, and the others as follows:

The Kingston campaign emphasized the following:

With less than three weeks to go until the Republican primary, Jack Kingston leads the crowded field. Kingston having the highest overall net positive opinion rating suggests that he still has room to grow. It is also important to note that this survey of likely Republican primary election voters was drawn from a sample of past Republican primary voters and new registrants. So far, this is the only published survey of this quality.

Read the entire Kingston memo here.

As that passage above implied, the methodology of the MNS/WAGA and the Kingston surveys differ significantly. The former included an Internet element:

InsiderAdvantage conducted the survey by automated telephone calls and online with Opinionsavvy on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Responses by 737 likely primary voters were selected at random to yield a 3.5 percent margin of error. The pollsters weighted the results to reflect the age, race and gender of the expected turnout.

The latter was conducted on more traditional lines:

This survey of 400 likely Republican primary election voters in the state of Georgia was conducted on April 28th and 29th, 2014. All interviews were conducted via telephone by professional interviewers. Interview selection was random within predetermined election units from a sample of past Republican primary voters and new registrants. To increase coverage, this sample was supplemented with 80 interviews of cell-phone users. These units were structured to correlate with actual voter turnout in a statewide Republican primary election. This poll of 400 likely Republican primary election voters has an accuracy of +/- 4.9% at a 95% confidence interval.

Kingston will spend today doing a fly-around with U.S. Chamber of Commerce officials – with stops in Savannah, Macon and Atlanta. And new details are emerging about how much airtime of another kind the intend to put behind him.

FCC filings show that the Chamber is spending $537,000 on Atlanta broadcast television through May 20 on Kingston’s behalf. The Washington Post is reporting that the Chamber bought $32,000 worth of ads in Macon and Augusta “though those buys will likely increase.”

The basic numbers of each poll are roughly the same, and the differences could be explained by weighting – each survey’s guess about what role women, south Georgia and the Atlanta suburbs might play in the May 20 primary. They do seem to agree on the strength of businessman David Perdue.

But if indeed Handel has momentum, and Kingston is struggling to hold his own north of the Gnat Line, then we have a situation in which three Republican members of Congress could be knocked out of the contest in the first round. And that would send significant message to House Republicans in Washington.


In the coastal First Congressional District, there is a brewing spat over the ballot and the ABCs.

There are two unrelated Carters on the ballot in the Republican primary: Darwin, a farmer and consultant from Alma; and Buddy, a state senator from Pooler.

But Darwin Carter qualified as simply Darwin Carter on the ballot -- and thus in the first position. That's seen as an advantage in a crowded primary.

Buddy Carter spokesman Jud Seymour said the campaign considered legal action but has decided not to sue:

"We’re disappointed that at some level there was a failure. And just, you know, it was just not done properly. And really it’s rewarding bad behavior."

Secretary of State spokesman Jared Thomas said there isn't much the office can do short of a court order. Election officials are bound by state rules to enter the names the way they appear in the voter registration system. And it was the Republican Party, and not the state, which handled the qualifying period. Besides, he said, early voting has already begun and ballots are printed.

"That order is determined by state election rules," said Thomas. "And we're adhering to that."


Dipping into the 4th District congressional primary, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed on Thursday hosted a Peachtree Street fundraiser – “an evening of conversation” – on behalf of U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, who’s facing a strong challenge from former DeKalb County Sheriff Tom Brown. The gate minimum was $500.


Former Dalton Mayor David Pennington is hitting Gov. Nathan Deal again for refusing to release his tax returns.

Deal told us last week he would release his tax returns for the last three years, just as he had done with his tax returns ahead of his 2010 run. But his office has yet to release the documents, or even put a timetable on when they may be made public.

Pennington, who released his tax returns for the last five years last week, said he suspects Deal is hiding something. (Superintendent John Barge, another GOP contender, has also released his returns.) Said Pennington:

"Nathan won't release his taxes. He won't release his business records. And he won't attend a debate. How is that transparency? More importantly, how is that leadership?"


Democratic U.S. Senate hopeful Michelle Nunn was spotted in Washington on Thursday by an ever-present tracker, heading into Capitol Hill power lunch spot Bistro Bis. A spokesman did not respond to requests for comment as to why Nunn was in D.C.

But the Republican tracking machine was not to be denied. A note from Leslie Shedd of the Georgia GOP:

Michelle Nunn did her favorite thing this week – she went back to her hometown of Washington DC for more swanky fundraisers with Washington insiders and to speak at the elite high school she attended, the National Cathedral School. Former graduates of the $36,000 per year private school include Queen Noor of Jordan, US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, and former Vice President Al Gore’s daughters.

Tsk, tsk. Republicans engaging in class warfare. Next they'll be pushing for a raise in the minimum wage.

Nunn, by the way, has let it be known that she'll be at Adamsville Recreation Center in Atlanta this morning -- to cast her early ballot in the Democratic primary and meet with the press.

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