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Social media wrap: Real big Deal -- Sexism charge roils Georgia's GOP governor race

July 19, 2010 |  8:05 am

  Karen_handel_nathan_deal

You’ve doubtless heard of the "Real Housewives of Atlanta." But a storm surrounding the use of the phrase “real women” has roiled the GOP gubernatorial race in Georgia ahead of Tuesday’s primary.

Karen Handel, who this week saw her stock – and her poll numbers – soar with an endorsement from Sarah Palin, has handbagged one of her rivals, Nathan  Deal, with accusations of sexism related to his campaign slogan.

The unlikely saga began when Deal, who uses the slogan “Deal. Real.” in almost all his campaign literature, wrote that “real women” support his campaign. As opposed to, say, Handel and a certain Mama Grizzly.

Of course, “real” is a pejorative term at the best of times and takes on a whole new meaning when applied ...

... to women in general (or indeed housewives).

Deal responded to the charge of sexism on Facebook on Sunday, posting:

The Deal Campaign today sent out a positive newsletter about the great Georgia women leaders who support Nathan. Karen Handel called it "sexist" because we used the word "Real." Look at our fan page, we've used "Real" from the start. Karen Handel owes the many women across Georgia who support Nathan an apology.

He further called the accusations of sexism “absurd” and that the use of the term “real women” was not meant to “impugn anyone.” You can read Atlanta Journal-Constitution blogger Jim Galloway on the controversy here. Handel has yet to respond.

The latest statewide polls show Handel (29%) taking a 7-point lead over state Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine (22%) with former congressman Deal at 20%. Handel’s numbers are up 6 points since she bagged Palin’s endorsement (while Deal's didn't move much either way after Newt Gingrich endorsed him). Still, the race is likely to go to a runoff, which is necessary in Georgia if no candidate secures 50% of the votes.

Palin, endorsing the only woman in either party’s primary field, noted that Handel was “pro-life, pro-Constitutionalist with a can-do attitude and a record for fighting for ethics in government.”

Handel replayed her endorsement from the former governor of Alaska on more than 300,000 robocalls placed to likely voters, which likely resulted in her reversing polling positions with Oxendine, the previous front-runner. Handel also has secured the endorsement of Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer.

The winning GOP candidate likely will face Democrat former Gov. Roy Barnes in November. Barnes’ primary opponent, state Atty. Gen. Thurbert Baker, is attempting to become Georgia’s first black governor but trails badly in the polls. The current governor, George Ervin "Sonny" Perdue III, who in 2000 became Georgia’s first Republican governor in more than a century, is termed out.

President Obama faced charges of sexism in the run-up to the 2008 presidential election with his now infamous “lipstick on a pig” comment that many considered a jibe at Palin, John McCain’s running mate.  That sexism charge failed to be a game changer for the McCain campaign, but this one could yet gain traction. 

For real.

-- Craig Howie

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Photos: Associated Press.

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