Analysis: Deal vs. Handel more ballgame than horse race

By Walter Jones Morris News Service Sunday, Aug 8, 2010 7:40 AM ATLANTA -- The drama of Tuesday…

Georgia (Aug 9, 2010)

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ATLANTA -- The drama of Tuesday's runoff stems from its unpredictability.
Although political campaigns seem to resemble professional wrestling in many ways, the biggest difference is the absence of a scripted outcome. In most cases, the ultimate winner can be guessed with accuracy since incumbents win 96 percent of their races, and the vast majority of the time the candidate with the most money triumphs.

Even in runoffs, the odds are predictable. Despite the accepted notion that the second-place finisher in the primary always goes on to win, statistics show that more than 70 percent of the time the primary leader also wins the runoff. …

Next, looking at likely turnout, there are some clues, suggests Kerwin Swint, political science professor at Kennesaw State University. Since runoffs usually are low-turnout affairs, they're normally limited to the diehard partisans, according to Swint.

"In the Republican Party, a lot of the diehards are social conservatives," he said.

While both candidates proclaim their conservatism, Deal has stressed more his connection with social conservatives, Swint said. He has hammered Handel on issues of gay rights and abortion while trumpeting his endorsement from Georgia Right to Life and the National Rifle Association.

Handel doesn't concede any ground in the conservatism sweepstakes, but Swint says Deal could get an advantage with those voters.

Then comes the impact of endorsements. Handel wins points here for snagging Sarah Palin and her Monday afternoon appearance. Palin's visibility and star quality have pumped energy into races across the country on behalf of the candidates she dubs her "Momma Grizzlies," especially with conservative of voters. …

Still, all the competing influences on this race mean nothing is certain. And despite all of the statistics, polls and punditry, they still play the baseball games, and there are still surprises.

Tuesday's game promises to be worth the ticket price for fans of both teams.

Walter Jones is the Atlanta bureau chief for Morris News and has been covering Georgia politics since 1998. He can be reached at or (404) 589-8424.


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