NEWNAN, Ga. -- David Perdue has effectively erased the lead Jack Kingston had enjoyed in the Republican Senate runoff, according to a survey released Thursday.
Perdue told about three-dozen supporters during a campaign stop in this Atlanta suburb that he’s feeling the momentum. The day before, Kingston greeted diners at the Varsity drive-in and also expressed confidence.
The poll for Morris News and Fox5 of Atlanta shows Kingston with 43 percent and Perdue with 41, essentially tied since the difference falls within the 2.7 percent margin of error. Another 17 percent remain undecided.
InsiderAdvantage conducted the survey by phone and online Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday among 1,278 likely voters or those who have already voted early.
Perdue, a retired corporate executive and political newcomer, came in first in the May primary with Kingston second out of a seven-candidate field. But the candidates who finished third and fourth, Karen Handel and Phil Gingrey, have since endorsed Kingston as have a handful of his congressional colleagues and newspapers around the state.
Independent polls reported Kingston with a double-digit lead in the weeks following the primary, apparently benefiting from a fleeting “bump” from news of the endorsements while Perdue had no TV ads on the air. Perdue spent that time replenishing his campaign war chest, and will report raising about $1 million and adding more of his own cash in figures to be reported late Thursday.
“You talk about this polling, that’s totally consistent with what we’re hearing around the state,” Perdue said. “It’s a tight race. ... The main thing I like is our momentum that we’re feeling in the last three or four weeks. I feel it out here on the stump.”
Kingston said Perdue is out of touch with voters, especially Republicans.
“Someone who is running for the U.S. Senate and has never voted in the Republican primary until his name is on the ballot, that takes chutzpah, if nothing else,” Kingston said.
Perdue has resumed the attack ads against Kingston, hammering on votes in Congress over spending and budget earmarks. Perdue and his staff say those are dragging down the 11-term Savannah congressman. Pollster Matt Towery of InsiderAdvantage speculates that news reports of Kingston’s acceptance -- and then return -- of $80,000 in money raised in December by a Palestinian businessman who is facing deportation for a criminal conviction.
Kingston said he did nothing wrong but takes campaign-finance rules seriously so he returned the money.
“There are a lot of attack ads that go on, and you don’t know which ones stick and which don’t. So you just keep moving forward,” he said.
Towery contends the ads attacking both candidates look so similar that the public is tuning them all out. However, news reports of the returned donations have more credibility and can be more damaging.
“While there has been no report of actual wrongdoing by Kingston, words like ‘investigation’ and the mention of institutions like the FBI have found their way into both print and broadcast news reports,” he said.
Towery credits Perdue with the greatest momentum in the race by eating away at the 11-point lead Kingston had enjoyed last month.
Follow Walter Jones on Twitter @MorrisNews and Facebook or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.