Since the defeat of U.S. Sen. Luther Strange in Alabama, many incumbent Republicans have become fearful of Donald Trump-inspired pitchforks. But Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle may have reason to be optimistic.
An internal poll by McLaughlin & Associates, the firm that polls for Gov. Nathan Deal and other prominent GOP figures, staked Cagle to an early formidable lead over his opponents. You can find the results and methodology here.
Internal polls are meant to be taken with a grain of salt, and this one is no different. They are leaked to media types to show their candidates in a favorable light, scare their rivals and send a message to supporters and the undecided.
Still, in the absence so far of any public polling, this one helps explain Cagle’s early maneuvering in the crowded contest to succeed Deal.
For one, it shows Trump is not just popular among Georgia Republicans – he’s wildly popular, holding an 86 percent approval rating. And it found GOP primary voters have an optimistic outlook for the state, with 69 percent saying Georgia is headed in the “right direction.”
In the opening months of the race, Cagle has endeavored not to be outflanked by the right from his rivals - Secretary of State Brian Kemp, former state Sen. Hunter Hill and state Sen. Michael Williams - while trying to stick to a relentlessly positive message.
Some of his opponents have sought to paint a different picture, warning of corrupt “career politicians” in Atlanta with dangerously misguided policies that could derail the state.
The internal poll shows the rest of the field remains unsettled - and that four in 10 voters hadn't made up their minds yet.
And that may hold another, just as important, finding. No one has consolidated the pitchfork vote yet.