ATLANTA - Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp has a big lead in the race for the Republican nomination for Governor, according to a new FOX 5/Opinion Savvy poll.
That poll, released Thursday morning, shows that Kemp has the backing of 55 percent of likely Republican voters, while Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle stands at 37 percent, five days before Georgia voters go to the polls for the primary runoff election. The eventual Republican nominee faces Democratic state lawmaker Stacey Abrams in November's general election. The winner will succeed two-term Republican Governor Nathan Deal.
The poll follows a pair of major endorsements in the late stages of the runoff race. President Donald Trump endorsed Kemp Wednesday. In a Tweet, Trump wrote "Brian is tough on crime, strong on the border and illegal immigration. He loves our Military and our Vets and protects our Second Amendment."
Brian Kemp is running for Governor of the great state of Georgia. The Primary is on Tuesday. Brian is tough on crime, strong on the border and illegal immigration. He loves our Military and our Vets and protects our Second Amendment. I give him my full and total endorsement.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 18, 2018
In a statement soon after the President's endorsement, Kemp said, "As governor, I will unapologetically stand with President Trump to secure our border, deport criminal aliens, crush street gangs, and ensure a bright and promising future for our families."
Cagle Tweeted his response to Trump's endorsement of Kemp, saying "I look forward to receiving your endorsement against the Democrats in November as I did for you".
No hard feelings, @realDonaldTrump. I look forward to receiving your endorsement against the Democrats in November as I did for you (wish @BrianKempGA could say he did the same). https://t.co/3yR1jCi3gj— Casey Cagle (@CaseyCagle) July 18, 2018
Both candidates have tried to align themselves with President Trump as the runoff vote approaches. Cagle has aired television ads touting the support of Trump's state campaign chair in Georgia. Neither Kemp nor Cagle supported Trump in the 2016 presidential primary in Georgia.
Earlier in the week, Cagle won the backing of Governor Deal, who called Cagle the best candidate to continue the progress made during Deal's tenure. Cagle also received the endorsement of the National Rifle Association.
Cagle led the field in the Republican primary in May, picking up 39 percent of the vote to Kemp's 25 percent. But because he fell short of an outright majority, the race advanced to Tuesday's runoff vote.
An Opinion Savvy analysis described Cagle's campaign as being in a "free fall", in part thanks to the President's endorsement. Opinion Savvy says "President Trump is extraordinarily popular among Georgia Republicans and the ultimate impact of his endorsement on the race could conceivably keep Cagle in the low-to-mid forty-percentile range once all the votes are counted."
However, the Opinion Savvy analysis suggests that turnout will be a key factor in deciding the race. The organization believes weak turnout could allow the GOP race to remain close until the end of Election Night. Opinion Savvy believes that a moderate to heavy turnout would benefit Kemp's campaign.
Cagle released a statement on Twitter following Trump's endorsement of Kemp:
"President Trump is doing a great job on national issues, and I'm going to campaign hard to keep him there in two years. I'm proud of what he's doing for America. But, I think our President is getting some bad advice on Brian Kemp's record of failure from Washington insiders.
Georgia voters need to ask themselves a hard question: Do we want a Governor who answers to Georgians, or one who owes his entire election to Washington? Our state can't afford to risk our economy and future on a candidate who can't beat the Democrat in November."
On Thursday, the White House confirmed to FOX 5 that Vice President Mike Pence will be in the Macon area on Saturday to campaign with Kemp.