By Walter Jones –
ATLANTA – Now that the state has a presidential primary scheduled at a time to draw candidates to Georgia, a new wrinkle may provide added incentive.
Starting today, a daily straw poll at the Georgia National Fair in Perry will show the relative support of the Republican and Democratic hopefuls among fairgoers.
Nicknamed the Peanut Poll, it amounts to a row of Mason jars and a ground pea given to visitors to the Secretary of State’s booth in the Georgia Grown building, one jar for each candidate from both parties. Fans will drop their goober into the jar of the candidate they support, or in the “undecided” jar.
Eating the peanut may illustrate another sentiment but probably won’t be counted.
Then at 5 p.m. each day, Secretary of State Brian Kemp will invite a guest to announce the standings. The results will also be reported on Kemp’s Facebook and Twitter feeds where voters can post their own photos and comments.
“The Peanut Poll will provide candidates a great opportunity to further their cause, meet Georgia voters face to face, and sample a large selection of fried foods,” Kemp said. “The road to the White House goes through Perry, and it’s paved with peanut shells.”
Of course, the selection of one of the state’s top farm products opens the door to plenty of puns, including partisans accusing each other of being “nuts.” Whether it sparks campaigns to pour resources on the fair or lure candidates remains to be seen.
“There is no doubt that Georgia will play an imperative role in next year’s presidential elections, evidenced by the interest and presence we’re seeing from candidates on our side,” said Michael Smith, spokesman for the Democratic Party of Georgia. “But for the GOP, it doesn’t really matter who ends up with the most peanuts, or emerges as the victor from the primary.”
Kemp picked the March 1 date for Georgia’s primary and then urged neighboring states to join, creating what he calls the SEC Primary to reflect the Southeastern Conference that many of the largest state colleges from the region compete in. His goal is to make Georgia’s primary take on some of the importance of the other early state contests, such as the Iowa caucuses and the Iowa State Fair that are almost mandatory for modern candidates to do well in.
“I think the Peanut Poll is a great way to attract candidate attention to the state,” said Daniel P. Franklin, political science professor at Georgia State University and a former campaign operative. “However, it won’t have the same impact as the Iowa State Fair poll because the Iowa caucuses are a discrete event (no other states compete on that day) at the beginning of the primary season.”
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