Bottom line

 

The Aug. 10 runoff for the Republican nominee for Georgia governor may not just be a test between candidates Karen Handel and Nathan Deal. It may also be a test of strength between Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich.

The two are potential presidential rivals in 2012 -- and have endorsed different candidates in the Georgia gubernatorial race, with Palin backing Handel and Gingrich behind Deal.

It will be an early test of brand loyalty for both -- particularly Gingrich, considering this is his home state.

But it will also be a test of Palin's power, which seems to be on the rise. Pundits so far are saying this might be the "year of the woman" -- especially the conservative woman. Could be. But it could also be a precursor to a Palin presidential run. Consider: If she continues to back winners, she'll have an awful lot of elected officials by 2012 who may feel obliged to back her for the White House.

The battle is joined.

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