Is Gov. Deal vulnerable in 2014 election hunt?

Name of Publication: 
Atlanta Journal Constitution
Excerpt of Article: 

Posted: 6:36 a.m. Thursday, March 7, 2013

By Greg Bluestein

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Democrats are more focused on trying to seize a vacant U.S. Senate seat next year than mustering a candidate for governor. And tea party groups aren’t planning yet to launch a conservative challenge to Gov. Nathan Deal.

Deal is quietly beginning to prepare for re-election in 2014 for a second term. The 70-year-old has kept a packed schedule and has more than $800,000 in campaign cash on hand. What he doesn’t have yet is an opponent.

Recent poll figures have raised questions about whether Deal could be vulnerable. An Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll in December showed he held a 51 percent approval rating, but two recent surveys — one from a GOP-aligned firm and another from a Democratic-leaning pollster — show those numbers slipping below 40 percent.

The governor’s office isn’t sounding alarms. Deal’s strategists say internal polling is showing solid numbers, and that attention toward the governor’s accomplishments will only sharpen as his re-election nears. Expect voters to hear about job creation efforts, cost-cutting criminal justice changes and the HOPE scholarship overhaul in the run-up to 2014. ...

The poll figures could be a reflection of a troubled economy and the lingering effect of the ethics allegations from the 2010 campaign, when Deal faced questions over a meeting with state officials about his auto salvage business, said Kerwin Swint, a Kennesaw State University political scientist. But he said Deal’s incumbency still makes him the “overwhelming favorite” against potential challengers such as Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed and U.S. Rep. John Barrow.

“Beating him in the primary is hopeless, and the tea party groups understand that. And the Democrats just aren’t ready. Kasim Reed knows better than to try,” Swint said. “Representative Barrow would be abandoning his hard-fought seat for a Don Quixote campaign. And there really isn’t anyone else that would have a good shot.”