AJC Senate Poll – Region Level Breakdown

Last Friday the AJC team of Daniel Malloy and Greg Bluestein released a poll of Georgia voters, highlighting the Governor’s race and Nathan Deal’s comfortable lead against his presumed Democratic challenger Jason Carter.  Their take on the Senate race was also included, summarized as:

The contest to succeed retiring U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss remains muddled with no clear front-runner. The AJC poll found that at least 40 percent of voters either offered no answer or said they had never heard of the candidate when polled on four of the highest-profile Republicans and the leading Democrat in the contest.

The lone exception is Republican Karen Handel, a former Georgia secretary of state who was narrowly defeated by Deal in 2010 in the GOP gubernatorial runoff. She had slightly higher favorability ratings than the rest, at 39 percent, but also a 24 percent unfavorable rating that was among the highest of the Senate candidates.

That’s not totally unexpected.  Handel, of course, is the only candidate to have previously run statewide, as well as having been elected statewide as Georgia’s Secretary of State.  In short, she’s well known and more people have had time to form an opinion of her.

Important to the analysis of any race at this point is that of name ID and favorability ratings.  Polls of how voters would vote “if the election were held today” are really just that.  The election isn’t being held for more than four months.  Campaigns to this point have been organizing volunteer lists and raising money.  What those campaigns do with that money and their volunteers is what ultimately determines how voters feel about each candidate and ultimately, how they vote.

For those who need an example, I refer you back to the 2010 Governor’s race where the person who had the highest poll numbers crashed and burned during the final 60 days, as each campaign executed their ground game.  Polls at this point tell us more about what each campaign’s strategy will be rather than where the candidates will end up.

As such, Karen Handel’s campaign has released a table breaking down favorability by region:


Karen Handel

Paul Broun

Phil Gingrey

Jack Kingston

Favorable – Unfavorable

Favorable – Unfavorable

Favorable – Unfavorable

Favorable – Unfavorable

Metro Atlanta

43 – 27

28 – 27

25 – 37

25 – 24

Southwest, GA

46 – 18

28 – 19

27 – 19

35 – 14

Southeast, GA

30 – 28

29 – 15

21 – 18

45 – 16

North Georgia

34 – 24

30 – 27

40 – 21

23 – 18

Updated to add: 

Exurban ATL fav/unfav

Broun: 39-16

Gingrey: 39-30

Handel: 40-24

Kingston: 24-20

Here we see a few things that will likely show how things may go over the next few months.  The majority of voters in Republican primaries are in Metro Atlanta and North Georgia.  SE Georgia may slightly over-sample their historical averages with the open primaries in Ga-1 and GA-12.  That said, proportionally, metro Atlanta is the expensive media market and moving the needle there will cost money.

The first thing that jumps out above is that Phil Gingrey has trouble in Metro Atlanta.  He has a net unfavorable rating of -12 in the region.  I’ve been assuming this entire race that Gingrey has a name ID advantage as his Congressional district has been changed over time to hit the Atlanta, Chattanooga, Columbus, and Macon media markets.  As such, he’s not been far from having had the reach of a statewide candidate.  In metro Atlanta, Gingrey will have to work a bit harder and spend some of his roughly $2MM cash on hand to shore up negatives.  It looks like his gaffes may have hurt him on his home turf but may be paying benefits in North Georgia.

Jack Kingston still has more than half of metro Atlanta voters without an opinion of him.  As such, the candidate who is raising the most money is going to have to spend that on his name ID.  That won’t be cheap.  It also shows he may be the target of opportunity for those who have money to spend on negative ads.  Others will likely want to define the money leader before he has the chance to define himself in Metro Atlanta and North Georgia.

Paul Broun has favorables and unfavorables that match in Metro Atlanta and North Georgia.  Shows Broun may be able to reach a runoff, but that opponents have the equal opportunity to increase his unfavorables in a runoff scenario.

The chart also demonstrates what we’ve covered here before.  Handel has a strategy where she expects to do well in Metro Atlanta and North Georgia based on high name ID and strong grassroots networks.  The AJC poll indicates she’s on track.

Not included in the table is David Perdue, businessman cousin of former Governor Sonny Perdue, showing the Perdue name is worth a 41% favorable rating and 9% unfavorable.  Perdue remains a rather undefined entity that starts off on a positive foot.  He also has demonstrated the ability to fund a race where he can define himself.   As polls begin to show if this high favorability ratings translate into potential votes, we’ll then have to watch and see if other candidates spend resources to further define a candidate that has no record of public office.

Updated with Perdue’s AJC breakdown:

North: 38-18

ATL exurbs: 31-24

ATL Metro: 28-27

Southeast: 42-11

Southwest: 45-14

Consider this is the table as it has been set.  The campaigns are about to sit down to eat.  Now the question remains as to who executes which strategies to see who eats whose lunch.


  1. My analysis on Handel: it is noteworthy that a google news search did not reveal any information on her most recent fundraising period. Probably because they are spending more time releasing ads for Peach Pundit and analyzing AJC polls than fundraising. Of note though, multiple news reports from last week show that the toll she took on the Susan G Komen foundation was $77 million – yes you read that right, that’s how much less they took in the fiscal year ending with her Planned Parenthood stunt than the year before it.

    She is toxic – but it won’t matter and here is quickly why: She doesn’t have the money that Kingston or Gingrey has. She no longer has the support of Sonny that cousin David has. In a real test of who is the most conservative, she can’t compete with Broun. Yes, she almost beat Deal but let’s compare that year to this year: Oxendine was a joke always, his sky high name ID never meant anything real. Eric Johnson, probably the best candidate in the 2010 race nearly beat her and Kingston who is similar has way more money than she does, and she will have less than she had. Broun is the real conservative – there wasn’t really one running in 2010. Deal has/had major ethical problems (still beat her) – Kingston, Gingrey and for all we know Perdue heck even Broun don’t come close to his issues.

    • TheEiger says:

      Can you please explain your logic behind “Eric Johnson . . . nearly beat her”? She was the highest vote getter after the primary and Eric was a distant third. How is that almost beating her? Or are you just spreading your typical lies?

      • Some of that is speculation. I think Johnson would have easily defeated her in the runoff, and could have even replaced her in the runoff had he been better funded. Other than Oxendine, she was arguably the most well known person in the 2010 primary – certainly the only person with a recent statewide primary win under their belt.

        More than half of her vote came from 9 counties…
        Fulton – she’ll still do well here. Cobb/Cherokee – Gingrey will take a big bite here. Gwinnett/DeKalb/Forsyth/Fayette/Henry – would imagine she’ll do ok here but that some combination of Broun/Kingston/Perdue will eat away at all three of these counties. Columbia/Richmond (her #10) – Broun will take a bite.

        Allow me to specifically handicap this race for Handel compared to 2010 by Congressional district, see what/if you disagree with me on:
        1st – Kingston will outperform Johnson, Handel will underperform compared to 2010.
        2nd – I foresee Broun/Perdue taking votes away from Handel here, who did pretty well here in 2010.
        3rd – Broun/Perdue probably have upside here, Gingrey has represented some of this. Good territory for Handel here previously, it will be tough to match performance.
        4th – Probably still somewhat Handel country, but Hank Johnson and potential CEO special election – that will draw some of her supporters out of the Republican primary. Probably will see reduced margins from the 4th.
        5th – Probably still somewhat Handel country, but again, not a lot of Republican voters here.
        6th – She did well here last time, but I think Gingrey, Perdue, Broun and Kingston will make a play for voters here. I fail to see her doing as well as she did last time.
        7th – I think Broun creeps up and gets a lot of votes out here.
        8th – Hard to imagine Handel doing as well here, Kingston has represented parts of it, and Perdue naturally will gain votes here.
        9th – One area she might do better – but again does she have the money to compete in a place like this especially as she has to defend elsewhere?
        10th – Broun
        11th – Gingrey and others will take votes.
        12th – Kingston will do a lot better here.
        13th – Handel probably wins but like 4th/5th, so few votes here.

        The numbers being what they are, anything is possible and I certainly expect Handel to end up close to 2nd or 3rd place. Maybe against Broun she takes a runoff, but I still think it’s more likely she ends up in 3rd place and here is ultimately why: she’ll be competing financially against at least 3 candidates (Gingrey/Kingston/Perdue) and probably 4 who will have way more resources than her. Everyone in this race is basically trying to get 25% and get to the runoff. The others will be spending full resources to try to convert 25% of all voters (maybe minus a congressional district here or there conceeded) into supporters. Two of these candidates only need to marginally connect with enough of their targets (everyone) to hit 25%.

        Due to resources, she’ll either launch an underfunded campaign that targets everyone and falls flat because there’s nothing to back it up, or more likely they’ll go all in on something like 35% of the voters in a runoff strategy. But at that point, she needs to convert something like 67% of her targets to get there – very dangerous. Everyone of her 35% that she’ll be targeting is also being hit by the other candidates, the 65% she doesn’t target aren’t being hit by her at all.

        This is simple math. In 2010, she was at financial parity with Deal, underfunded by Oxendine (but he never really had a chance) and had more money than Johnson. In this race, the only candidate she’ll be at parity with fundraising-wise is Broun, who has significantly more appeal than any of the 2010 candidates did to the Republican tea party base that dominates primaries, and the Johnson proxy will have 8x the money (Kingston), either Gingrey or Perdue is the Deal or Oxendine of this race and both will also have 8x the money.

        • TheEiger says:

          Once again you are making up your own facts. I know you don’t like Handel. It’s pretty obvious, but you really should quit distorting the facts and outright lying. She was out raised by everyone in the race. She did not out raise Johnson as you say and she was not on par with Deal. She was out raised by all of them and finished ahead of them. These are easy facts to look up you should do so in the future instead of talking out of your rear.

          Money does matter, but a good ground game goes along way. She has a good ground game. I like how you list every House district and then opine on how knowledgeable you think you are, but you completely disregard the AJC poll and the chart of favorable / unfavorable above. She has the highest favorables and a very large lead in metro. Just because you don’t like someone doesn’t mean you can bend and distort the facts to suit you.

          • Fav/unfav is meaningless – did the AJC poll the actual ballot test or are you making up her large lead?

            As of June 2010 she had raised just shy of $1.8m.
            Eric Johnson had raised just shy of $2.4m.
            Nathan Deal had raised $2.6m.

            All three had between $600k-$700k on hand at that point. That is very close to parity. That is not what this year looks like.

            • tdk790 says:

              Your intense hatred is amusing, if not embarrassing. But when you pick and choose your “facts” you lose credibility.

              Financial parity = Deal outraising Handel by $1 million? I don’t think so.

              And your cash on hand totals are misleading because Johnson had already reserved close to (or over) $1 million on TV. Handel never came close to that, and that is not parity.

    • Ellynn says:

      Handle has a big thing in her favor that Broun, Kingston and Gingrey do not – a US house voting record. Have noticed her ads and statements on national issues? She will come out fighting on a democrate or Presidental item/ bill/ issue; but when it’s a GOP inner fighting stance, she becomes reserved in her stance. She don’t have to explain earmatks to counties with military bases, past votes on increasing spending prior to 2007, extreme bills that the mainline GOP has not liked, or votes for shutting down the government or taking away funding for GOP pet projects. The plan parenthood issue doe not hurt her with the base, It hurts her in the general election.

      • Interesting idea, but why not just go with Perdue or Broun if you’re this kind of voter. I know Broun technically has a house record, but he’s enough of an outsider.

        The reason I dislike Handel is because she’s a phony. Let’s just take on specific example – said she didn’t have a problem funding non-abortion related activities for Planned Parenthood as Fulton County chair, gets a ton of votes from moderates to make it into a runoff that she then loses because she’s too moderate, then goes after Planned Parenthood in the private sector a mere 10 years after saying she didn’t have a problem with what they did in the public sector.

        Now she’s the conservative? Sorry, I can’t keep track. Just my $0.02 – you want experience, Kingston, you want an outsider, Perdue (never been in any office not just Congress), you want a true conservative, Broun hasn’t had to evolve on Planned Parenthood. But at the same time, I just don’t see why candidates that are clearly better than Nathan Deal will have a harder time beating her than Deal did.

        • Ellynn says:

          This comes down to which GOP base shows up to vote. The old guard, the Christian right, the Tea Party… Currently experiance is a bad word for a national office holder to use. Kingston has a paper trail miles long. I heard Broun is not popular with the NRSC. All three have to vote for a budget this next week.

  2. Harry says:

    Anybody but Karen – that’s what the liberal Dems say. I’m starting to feel she would beat Nunn like a drum. Here’s an idea: Pay some street folks to vote in the GOP primary to keep Karen out of the runoff!

    • No actually I say bring her on. I really don’t like her, but I would vote for her in the primary if I was voting. Maybe I’d vote for Broun first, since he’s probably worse.

    • Ellynn says:

      I have no idea what liberal Dems you have talked to, but the crowd I know are hoping for Broun or Handle to win the GOP. These two are most likely to modivate moderate women NOT to vote for the GOP in November. The Dems do not want a canidate the mainstrem GOP and moderate voters can back.

      Also, don’t underestimate Nunn. My second cousin (who has worked over 20 years for a long held Republican house member out of Wisconsin) told meNunn is very well thought of by the mainly republican board at the Points of Light Foundation. She has the respect of many old guard DNC members/donners and a poltical contact list some sitting senete members wish they had. Her inhouse staff I hear is impressive for someone who never ran for office.

      • Harry says:

        If your theory is that Karen can’t beat Nunn like a drum, then you + Chris go ahead and vote for her in the primary so she will advance and lose to Nunn in the general. I really doubt you’d do it! I advise you to forget about the GOP field and rather focus on your own preordained candidates.

        • Ellynn says:

          I’m pretty sure I did not say who could beat who… What I pointed out is not to underestimate Nunn. She has accees to big money, and big influence. As to Handle, she will have issues with moderate women in this state and will have to fight to get that vote. She could do it, but she will have to work for them.

          Yesterday on this same thread I pointed out what advantages she has over other people running. I’m discussing, not making a political statement Harry.

  3. RepublicanToo says:

    Illusion of choice and skewed polling. It looks good on the surface, but its hard to say for sure because the poll was skewed, it only included a small number of candidates among the choices (Where is Art Garner, Derrick Grayson, and Eugene Yu?).

    Without all the candidates being offered as a choice, Karen may appear to be the highest favored…but highest favored among what, the lesser evils?

    It would be interesting to see the results among all of the declared candidates.

    • Charlie says:

      The problem with many if not most of the well intentioned but misguided supporter(s) of the above named gentlemen is that they are playing on an unfamiliar field, with unfamiliar rules, and have convinced themselves that Mr. Smith Goes To Washington is real and that they can elect their local Jimmy Stewart to one of the most competitive positions in politics.

      Part of not understanding what is going on around you is not even understanding what the poll listed above was measuring. It is no way compares the candidates to each other, it was identifying how well known each candidate was, and whether the impressions of each voter were favorable or unfavorable.

      The reality of the situation is this. There’s nothing fair about this process. Life isn’t fair. But it’s not the media’s job to do public relations for unknown candidates. We all have limited time and resources to do the best job we can with what we have to work with.

      • Or put another way, the AJC may be spending almost as much on survey time to ask the fav/unfav question as the candidates themselves have spent communicating with voters to increase that ID.

        As someone who has personally gone through a very nasty election process, people are sometimes surprised to hear that I don’t necessarily have a problem with that. There’s no easy path to being a CEO or NFL player or even a teacher in many cases. I kind of like the idea that the guy who is going to be President or even Mayor has had a lot of crap flung at him and made it through that process and won’t just flinch and cower from the tough decisions they have to make. And if you can’t handle being snubbed by an AJC poll on the way to the Senate, well you probably aren’t cut out to be a senator.

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