Roy Barnes leads the top three Republican candidates as he tries to return to the Governor's office in Georgia that he lost in 2002.
Barnes is up 40-39 on John Oxendine, 41-36 on Karen Handel, and 43-38 on Nathan Deal. He leads because he's winning more of the Republican vote than Oxendine, Handel, or Deal is of the Democratic vote. That's a pretty unusual thing for a Democrat in a time when Republicans are super unified and some conservative Democrats, particularly in the South, are leaning toward supporting the GOP this year. Barnes gets 10% of the GOP vote to Oxendine's 8% of the Democratic vote, 10% of the GOP vote to Handel's 7% of the Democratic vote, and 12% of the GOP vote to Deal's 7% of the Democratic vote.
Barnes actually trails with independents by anywhere from 5-14 points in each of the match ups, mirroring the trouble Democrats nationally are having with those voters.
The early advantage for Barnes is somewhat attributable to superior name recognition. 69% of voters in the state know who he is, compared to 63% for Oxendine, 38% for Handel, and 29% for Deal. One way that imbalance manifests itself is that there are a lot more undecided Republicans in the horse race contests (23% on average) than there are Democrats (15%). The odds are those voters will move toward the GOP once the party has a nominee, making the race more or less a tossup.
If Attorney General Thurbert Baker was to somehow upset Barnes for the nomination he'd start out at a disadvantage to the Republican candidates. He trails Deal 40-29, Oxendine 42-33, and Handel 40-33.
It seems likely this will be one of the most competitive Gubernatorial races in the country this year, and along with Kit Bond's open Senate seat in Missouri it represents one of the two best opportunities Democrats have to pick something up in a state that went for John McCain. It'll be interesting to see if Barnes can sustain his early advantage in a climate much worse for his party than the one that existed when he lost for reelection in 2002.
Full results here