In the latest InsiderAdvantage Georgia survey, [Republican Nathan] Deal had 45 percent and [Democrat Roy] Barnes had 41 percent. Libertarian John Monds had 5 percent; the other respondents were undecided.
The margin of error for the survey was 4 percent, so Deal and Barnes are statistically about even.
Such numbers suggest a runoff is “quite conceivable” said Robert Eisinger, a political science professor at the Savannah College of Art and Design.
It will remain so, said Eisinger, also dean of the School of Liberal Arts at SCAD, “even if the Libertarian candidate gets just 2 or 3 percent and the race remains close.”
Emory University political science professor Merle Black agreed, citing the 2008 Senate race, when Libertarian Allen Buckley drew 3.4 percent.
But to win or force a runoff, Black said, Barnes must do better among white voters. In recent polls, his percentage has ranged from the high 20s to about 30.
But while acknowledging a runoff is possible, other experts said it’s not likely.
“I would say a less than 50-50 chance,” said Charles Bullock, a University of Georgia political science professor.
Bullock said the candidacy of soon-to-be President Barack Obama swelled turnout among Democratic-leaning black voters and young people in 2008 and gave Martin a big boost.
“That won’t happen this year,” Bullock said.
For the same reason, InsiderAdvantage CEO Matt Towery said, a runoff is a possibility, but “not a strong possibility.”
A runoff is unlikely in the Senate race. Even though Libertarian Chuck Donovan in that race is polling higher than Monds at 7%, the Republican is an incumbent with a significant lead over the Democrat.