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Newt Versus Sarah

It didn't get the kind of national attention that Sarah Palin's endorsement of Karen Handel received, but it could matter down the road: Newt Gingrich has endorsed his former House colleague Nathan Deal for governor of Georgia, just a week before the July 20 primary. Moreover, Gingrich offered his imprimatur in Georgia, not on a Facebook site (Palin's only venue for Handel so far), and has cut an ad for the North Georgia party-switcher.

I'd say this is a pretty risky gambit for Newt, taking on Palin in his own home state, all the more because this is an extremely unstable race. Five different polling outfits have released surveys of this contest since July 1, and the results are all over the place. Two polls, from Survey USA and Mason-Dixon, have shown longtime frontrunner John Oxendine maintaining his lead with over 30% of the vote, and Karen Handel moving up into second place at 23%. Two other polls, from Insider Advantage and Magellan, have Oxendine's support collapsing down into the teens; IA had him tied with Handel, and Magellan had Handel surging into the lead. All four polls had Nathan Deal bumping along in the teens as well, and not showing much momentum.

Now Rasmussen's weighed in with a poll showing Handel and Deal tied for the lead at 25%, with Oxendine semi-collapsing back to 20%.

If Rasmussen's right, and Handel and Deal wind up in a runoff, the Newt-Versus-Sarah story-line will get a lot more play, and pressure on Palin to personally campaign for her latest Mama Grizzly will grow intense.

All this activity is preliminary, of course, to the general election, and the latest poll to test various Republicans against likely Democratic nominee Roy Barnes, the Mason-Dixon survey, shows the former governor tied with Oxendine, up eleven points over Handel, and up eighteen points over Deal.