"More power to her," Palin said. "She's been underestimated her entire life. She's been able to thwart what the experts have said about some circumstances and situations."
Palin jetted round trip from Alaska just for a three-hour stop with Handel at the InterContinental Hotel in Buckhead. Handel's staff said the former governor was eager to do it because she was miffed by published comments by Deal's supporters that Handel's stance on abortion would have sanctioned Palin's aborting her son Trig when she learned of his Down syndrome.
Handel opposes abortion but makes exceptions in the case of rape, incest and if the mother's life is in danger. She angrily denied her stance would allow aborting handicapped children.
"You want me to leave my Alaska fishing grounds, that's the way to get me to," Palin said. "Despite what they are throwing at her, Karen is pro-life and will walk the walk."
Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, endorsed Handel on Facebook and Twitter in the primary, but Monday was her first appearance on behalf of the former secretary of state.
On Sunday, her opponent, Nathan Deal, brought former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee for his endorsement at a Gainesville, Ga., rally. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has put his support behind Deal, too.
Two hours before Monday's event, more than 100 people were waiting in line to enter the plush Buckhead ballroom. When the door opened, they rushed in and jockeyed for a place at the front.
The Handel campaign distributed 2,700 tickets for the event before shutting it down to accommodate the fire marshal.
Many of the attendees said they were supporters of Handel before Palin's endorsement, but it was Palin who brought them out in the middle of a workday.
"This is about our support for Karen Handel, but we're here because of Sarah Palin," said tea party activist Mike Morton of Rome.
He said Huckabee's endorsement of Deal didn't carry the same weight because Huckabee raised taxes as governor while Palin cut them when she was in office.
Phillip Whiteman of Handel's adopted hometown of Roswell, wants to see a woman elected to demonstrate that Republicans aren't all white men.
"It's an opportunity to see Sarah Palin, an opportunity to show support for Karen Handel," he said.
Aaron Gould Sheinin and Steve Visser of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution contributed to this article.