Could Ga. gubernatorial race go to a runoff?

ATLANTA – In 2008, a Libertarian candidate forced incumbent U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss, a Republican, into a runoff with former state Rep. Jim Martin, a Democrat.

With three candidates – Republican Nathan Deal, Democrat Roy Barnes and Libertarian John Monds – vying to replace Gov. Sonny Perdue this year, what are the odds this year’s gubernatorial race heads to a runoff – especially in light of Deal’s recent financial woes?

“It depends on how much Republican support Nathan Deal bleeds,” said David Johnson, CEO of Strategic Vision and a Georgia-based Republican strategist. “If you look, going back to 2008 with the Saxby Chambliss-Jim Martin race, it was (that) Chambliss lost Republican votes because of his support for TARP (the Troubled Asset Relied Program Congress passed in 2008). … They didn’t feel he was a strong enough conservative.”

In Georgia, a candidate must receive more than 50 percent of the vote – called 50 plus one – to avoid a runoff.

In 2008, “you had a lot of Republicans saying they were going to send a message,” Johnson said. “They knew that if didn’t get the 50 plus one, they would have a second chance to vote for him, but they were trying to send a message to him.”

Johnson notes that the Democratic base in Georgia in 2008 – a presidential election – was more energized than today.

While Deal has as of late found himself on the wrong side of negative press, it probably isn’t enough to cause Deal to lose so much support that a runoff is possible, Johnson predicts. But, if the “scandals” worsen, Deal could see his support erode.

“It could bleed away your moderate suburban support, but it’s hard to see them actually going to (vote for) John Monds,” Johnson said. “They’re more likely to either not vote or vote for Roy Barnes this time.

“What drives support for a Libertarian is going to be something ideological,” Johnson said, adding that if a controversial vote that Deal cast while in Congress surfaces that causes conservatives to flee from Deal, “then you’ll have a runoff.”

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