As endorsements pile up for both candidates, Casey Cagle and Brian Kemp are neck-and-neck in the final few weeks of the runoff for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, according to recent polling.
Cygnal, an independent, Alabama-based firm, released its latest private data on the Georgia primary in late June. With less than a month left in the runoff, Lt. Gov. Cagle is leading Secretary of State Kemp by a single point among likely runoff voters. Early voting began Monday for the July 24 primary runoff.
GOP primary runoff
When: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays-Fridays through July 20
Where: Hall County Government Center, 2875 Browns Bridge Road
When: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. July 24
Where: Voters’ designated polling precincts
“Primary runoff elections are often a battle of inches not miles,” states the report from Brent Buchanan, president of Cygnal. “The 2018 Georgia Republican primary runoff for governor is setting up to be just that.”
The Cygnal poll has the race at 44-43 in favor of Cagle with a margin of error of 3.4 percent. The pollster surveyed more than 800 voters in metro Atlanta, the surrounding area and South Georgia. Of those surveyed, more than 600 were “definitely voting,” 99 were “probably voting” and only 37 didn’t plan to vote.
The telephone surveys included both landlines and mobile phones, and the sample was almost an even split between men and women but skewed male. Almost 100 people from Northeast Georgia’s 9th Congressional District were included in the survey.
While the two candidates were running almost evenly in the poll, it lists Kemp as the more likeable candidate in the race.
Kemp’s favorability rating in the Cygnal poll was 62.1 percent, with 31.7 percent reporting they had a “strongly favorable” opinion of him, while 23.9 percent had an unfavorable opinion of him.
Cagle came in at 60.1 percent favorable, including 28.2 percent of respondents who were strongly favorable. His unfavorability rating was 29.8 percent, according to the poll.
The Alabama pollster also dug up some interesting demographic information on likely voters: Cagle is leading with male voters by 3 points, while female voters are just about split between the two candidates at 42 percent each. Kemp is leading with voters between 55 and 69 years old by 10 points, while Cagle leads by 15 points among voters older than 70.
Meanwhile, the Kemp campaign is pitching its own internal polling as confirmation of the Cygnal poll. On Sunday, July 1, the campaign released its latest round of polls from Public Opinion Strategies, from Alexandria, Virginia, which has Kemp and Cagle tied at 45 percent each.
The latest polling released by the Cagle campaign was published on June 4 and showed the lieutenant governor running 10 points ahead of Kemp among likely Republican runoff voters.
However, that poll was released just two days before a secret recording between Cagle and former Republican candidate Clay Tippins surfaced in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Headlines about the recording in local, state and national media following the revelation have been scorching for Cagle.
However, the news hasn’t stopped him from winning major endorsements and accolades. Cagle landed an endorsement from business magnate Steve Forbes on June 8, just one day after the recording story broke.
“Casey Cagle is absolutely the man to keep Georgia’s economy humming,” Forbes said in an announcement from the Cagle campaign.
Cagle also emerged at the top of the list of Newsmax’s 10 best lieutenant governors in the nation, which published on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the Kemp campaign won the endorsement of former challenger Michael Williams, a state senator from Cumming who landed 5 percent of the vote in the Republican primary after rolling out a hugely controversial “Deportation Bus.”
The other Republican candidates have so far held off on making an endorsement for either candidate — though it’s seems unlikely Tippins will break for Cagle at this point.
However, Rep. Sam Teasley, R-Marietta, was a former committee chairman for Hunter Hill, and on June 25 the Kemp campaign announced the representative was endorsing Kemp.
"Businessman Brian Kemp has a simple but consistent plan to put people — not politics — first," Teasley said in a Kemp campaign announcement.
Though he’s lately been aiming for endorsements from national names, Cagle rolled out a 500-strong list of state and local endorsements in May.