ALBANY -- With today's primary looming, Republican gubernatorial candidate Nathan Deal flew into Southwest Georgia Regional Airport Monday in a last-ditch effort to rally the troops and get out the vote.
According to the latest statewide poll conducted for the Georgia Newspaper Partnership, challenger Karen Handel leads Deal 47 percent to 42 percent with 11 percent undecided. The two are basically battling for voters who supported someone else in the July 20 primary.
Today's winner will face Democratic nominee, and former governor, Roy Barnes in November's general election.
The key group for both candidates is that undecided 11 percent.
"We are trying to reach people right now," Deal said. "We are pleased to have the endorsements of two-thirds of the members of both the state House and Senate. We have the endorsement of (former GOP candidate) Eric Johnson and it's truly been a grassroots effort.
"The other phenomenon is the extreme negativity my opponent has directed at us has taken a toll on her, costing here support.
Deal, however, has not been a choir boy as far as negative campaigning. Last week, his campaign unleashed a blistering ad claiming Handel supports taxpayer-funded gay partner benefits and that Handel voted to give tax dollars to Youth Pride, a group that allegedly promotes homosexuality among teens as young as 13.
"After all the lies and misrepresentations she had directed at us, we had to defend ourselves," Deal said. "And the point is the voters are being repulsed by what she's doing. I am talking issues rather than hurling epithets. It's wrong and I think the voters will make her regret it."
Deal, a member of Congress for 18 years, says his message is simple:
"We want vision instead of vengeance," Deal said. "If you elect me governor there will be no gridlock with the state Legislature; I can work easily with both the House and Senate. We don't need fights between the governor's office and the General Assembly -- not if we want to make sure that Georgia has the best business climate in the Southeast.
"But we first need someone who can beat Roy Barnes. Polls have consistently shown I am the only one who can beat him."
Deal also thinks the miles his campaign has logged over the past few months will help him at the polls today.
"I'm going all over the state of Georgia today looking for votes and connecting with the people," he said. "She (Handel) is holed up in a four-star hotel room back in Atlanta. What does that tell you?"
With Handel in Atlanta was former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who headlined a get-out-the-vote rally for Handel. Palin and Handel entered a crowded Atlanta hotel ballroom on Monday to the strains of Twisted Swister's "We're Not Gonna Take It" and chants of "Sa-rah!"
Palin called the runoff race "epic" and said the nation is watching to see if Georgia is ready to elect Handel and "get rid of that good ol' boy network."
"Georgia, are you ready to bring it on?" Palin asked to cheers.
Polls are open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. today.