Once again, it looks like endorsements are driving a primary. John Oxendine had taken to the air in Georgia and regained a decent lead (or as decent as you’ll get in a huge multi-way affair*), but now that Newt Gingrich endorsed Nathan Deal and Sarah Palin endorsed Karen Handel, the Ox is back in third.
John Oxendine had been on the air, I’m told, and so he’d gotten a jump in the polls. But since then, Gingrich endorsed Deal and Palin endorsed Handel. So suddenly, Handel and Deal are tied for the two key runoff positions at 25 each, Oxendine is in third at 20, and Eric Johnson is hanging around at 13 (MoE 4.5 by Rasmussen Reports).
Ordinarily I’d ignore a fourth place showing like Johnson’s, but theoretically it’d be very easy for him to swing into first by taking a few points from everyone else. Multi-way races are unstable like that. I don’t necessarily think it’s likely with Oxendine having the cash while Deal and Handel have the major national endorsements, but stranger things have happened.
For now though, long time frontrunner Oxendine just might miss the runoff entirely.
* Yes, I’m sure that Mark Sanford hasn’t hiked the southern tip of the Appalachian Trail into Georgia to run in this race.