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Deal leads Barnes by four points in race for Georgia governor

By Dick Pettys
InsiderAdvantage Georgia

August 19, 2010

An InsiderAdvantage/WSB-TV poll conducted Aug. 18 showed Republican Nathan Deal leading Democrat Roy Barnes by four points in the race for Georgia governor; that’s exactly the poll’s margin of error. In the race for U.S. Senate, the poll showed incumbent Republican Johnny Isakson leading Democrat Michael Thurmond 47% to 35%.

The poll was conducted with the firm’s usual IVR telephone survey system and included results from 554 registered voters who said they were likely to vote in the November elections. The results were weighted for age, race gender and political affiliation.In the governor’s race, the poll produced these results:

Nathan Deal, 45%
Roy Barnes, 41%
John Monds (Libertarian), 5%
No opinion, 9%

In the race for U.S. Senate, the results were:

Johnny Isakson, 47%
Michael Thurmond, 35%
Chuck Donovan (Libertarian), 7%
No opinion, 11%

InsiderAdvantage CEO Matt Towery offered this analysis, beginning with the Senate race:

“Sen. Isakson is near the magic 50 percent-plus-one range before running even his first television commercial. US senators inevitably see a significant amount of their name ID disappear over a six-year period because they are in Washington, D.C., and aren’t available to be seen on local television on a regular basis. Once Isakson begins his television campaign, I expect to see a substantial consolidation of the vote, with Isakson likely to move into the mid-50s or above. 

“Michael Thurmond is performing admirably. However, there are relatively few African Americans with no opinion in the race and this would, of course, be his most reliable base. [Thurmond is black.] I also expect to see the Libertarian candidate decline based on historic trends. A large portion of that likely would go to Isakson, as well.

“This poll should not be misinterpreted by the politically naïve. A very old rule of thumb was that incumbent candidates had to be at 50 percent or above to be considered ‘safe.’ In the last five to eight years, that rule of thumb has changed, particularly when a candidate has not even launched his first television commercial. Sen. Isakson’s numbers are more than sufficient to suggest that, absent some catastrophic occurrence involving his entire party, Isakson will be returned to the US Senate while Thurmond will likely make a name for himself and emerge as a potential leader in whatever form the Democratic Party takes after the elections.”

Now, the governor’s race.

“Amazingly, Roy Barnes remains in contention despite the fact that the head of his party nationally, Barack Obama, has reached a phenomenally low level of support in Georgia. Even a plurality of Democrats polled said they were opposed to President Obama’s position as to placing a mosque near the site of the 9-11 tragedy.

“That said, Nathan Deal is amazingly resilient, given the fact that Barnes has relentlessly attacked him on television for the last seven days, and Deal has just emerged from a bruising GOP primary.

“For Barnes to win, African Americans at a minimum must make up 21 percent of the total electorate and, in fact, he actually needs a higher African-American turnout than that. Among white voters, Barnes is losing 58 percent to 31 percent. This is not completely bad news for Barnes, given the fact that very few whites in Georgia currently identify themselves as Democrats.

“The race really boils down to independent voters. Polling data indicates that virtually as many people identify themselves as independents as they do either of the two dominant political parties. Among independents, the race is tight with Deal having 41 percent of the independent vote and Barnes receiving 38 percent.

“I am amazed at how low the percentage of undecided voters is at this time, and we could potentially see that number shift back upward once the candidates start trading various attack ads.

“Deal’s strategy must be to debunk Barnes’ assertion that he faces a potential grand jury indictment and that he has ‘ethical problems.’ Barnes’ strategy must center on the difficult dilemma of distancing himself not only from Barack Obama but from the entire Democratic Party while, at the same time, motivating African Americans who vote overwhelmingly Democrat to turn out to the polls at the level needed to win the race.

“It’s impossible to predict how this race will end because there are so many variables and we have no idea what external events might take place that might affect either candidate positively or negatively.

“Make no mistake – this will be a tight race. But for Barnes to win he must shed the country boy image he has been projecting on television and go after the independent voters who seem inclined to consider voting for him. Barnes must become the metro Atlanta candidate, and that means the real Roy Barnes, who is articulate and sophisticated, must emerge in his commercials. For Deal to win, he must convince voters that he is familiar with statewide issues and that he is not tainted by ethical problems, tax problems or other questions that would be left hanging were he to be elected governor.

“Obviously, the national political winds are blowing in the Republican Party’s direction. For Barnes to even be in this race at this point, considering President Obama’s catastrophic performance in the last month, suggests that this will be a toe-to-toe battle until the bitter end.

“I predict the Georgia governor’s race will become a point of national focus before it is concluded in November.” 

   
   

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