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Georgia gubernatorial race 'no longer a sleepy contest'

Cars sit on the side of Interstate 75 in icy conditions January 29, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia. Thousands of motorists were stranded, many overnight, as a winter storm dropped three inches of snow, and ice made driving hazardous.
Cars sit on the side of Interstate 75 in icy conditions January 29, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia. Thousands of motorists were stranded, many overnight, as a winter storm dropped three inches of snow, and ice made driving hazardous.
Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images

Sabato's Crystal Ball, a political analysis by Larry J. Sabato, director of the University Of Virginia Center for Politics, downgraded Georgia gubernatorial race from "safe Republican" to "likely Republican" on Thursday, in the aftermath of the January snow storm that many thought was mishandled by Republican Governor Nathan Deal.

"Responses to natural disasters or statewide crises can have a markedly positive or negative effect on governors …," said Kyle Kondik, the managing editor of Sabato's Crystal Ball. "Perhaps more seriously, Deal has been dogged by ethical questions in office, and there’s a possibility that they could be a liability in the fall."

Deal, provided he wins the Republican primary, will face state Sen. Jason Carter (D-Atlanta) in November, the grandson of former President Jimmy Carter.

According to a recent poll by the Hicks Evaluation Group (HEG) and Apache Political Communications, Deal appears to be losing popularity, with almost eight percent of likely Republican voters voicing their support for Carter over the incumbent.

"If this is not merely an expression of anti-Deal sentiment, and Jason Carter is actually turning the Republican base away from an incumbent Republican Governor, then the November election could be much closer than previously expected," said Fred Hicks, President of HEG.

Of course Carter's last name, along with his liberal views that will be on full display during debates, are likely to be a turnoff for the rather conservative Georgia electorate.

In addition, while the state demographics are changing with growing liberal minority groups, Democrats have been less likely than Republicans to come out to vote in mid-term elections.

As Kondik put it in his analysis, Carter needs Deal "to be in trouble to win."

"We’re moving the Georgia gubernatorial contest from Safe Republican to Likely Republican," said Kondik. "As in Kansas, an upset would be a big surprise, but this is no longer a sleepy contest."