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Republican hopes rise on Georgia race

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Politics,Chris Stirewalt,Power Play

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REPUBLICAN HOPES RISE ON GEORGIA RACE
Republican strategists once feared Georgia’s senate primary like none other on the calendar. The race to replace retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., promised to be a bitter struggle between insurgents and establishmentarians with the prospect of either an unsuitable general-election candidate or a nominee who had to go so far right to win that he or she would lose their credibility with the more moderate suburban voters on whom November’s outcome will depend. But that’s not what happened… at least so far.

Round one - This is just a preliminary round. With no candidate likely to clear the 50 percent threshold to avoid a July 22 runoff, the focus today is on which two candidates will survive and advance. The establishment is divided between frontrunner David Perdue, a former CEO and cousin to former Gov. Sonny Perdue, and Rep. Jack Kingston, a longtime House member whose Savannah district is home many moderate coastal voters. The outsiders are divided, too. Former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel has emerged as the frontrunner in a three-way contest for the support of the more conservative wing of the party. Others in that lane include Rep. Paul Broun, who represents an intensely conservative district in the north-central part of the state and is famous for his firearms giveaways, and Rep. Phil Gingrey, a doctor who represents a staunchly conservative district mostly in the far exurbs of Atlanta.

Which two will tango? - The GOP establishment would like nothing better than to see two of their own in the runoff, and many have hoped at Perdue and Kingston would be the ones to sparring for the next nine weeks. It might be petty. Really petty. But it wouldn’t be a buffet of red meat alone. Polls have shown, however, that Handel is elbowing her way into the second spot just behind the deep-pocketed Perdue. And while a race between the two of them would surely see plenty of base baiting, Handel has won statewide before and has shown herself to be an adept campaigner.

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Chris Stirewalt

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