Today’s Georgia Gov Primary Pits Palin-Backed Mama Grizzly Against Birther-Curious Ex-Rep

Voters are headed to the polls today in Georgia, for the first round of the Republican primary for governor, to succeed term-limited GOP Gov. Sonny Perdue. No candidate is expected to reach the 50% needed to avoid a runoff — but there has been some last-minute momentum for former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel, who is endorsed by none other than Sarah Palin, and who could end up coming in a strong first place.

The most recent polls from Magellan Strategies, Mason-Dixon, Insider Advantage and Rasmussen all have Handel on top, with her support ranging from the mid-20s to the high 30s (though the latter could possibly be an outlier).

Handel has tacked noticeably right in this race, going from supporting domestic partnerships and even once joining the pro-gay rights Log Cabin Republicans to now favoring a ban on gay adoption. Handel could potentially also have been boosted a bit when she received Palin’s endorsement.Her competition consists of former Rep. Nathan Deal, the Birther-curious Republican who resigned from the House in order to focus on his gubernatorial campaign, state Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine, and former state Senate President Pro Tem Eric Johnson.

Earlier in the race, polls from Rasmussen, Public Policy Polling (D) and InsiderAdvantage showed Oxendine in the lead with support in the high 20s.

But for now, the final momentum seems to be with Handel. In fact, check out this very Palinesque ad. “Three with very iffy ethics,” the announcer says, referring to Handel’s opponents. “One wears lipstick.”

There’s also a Dem primary, which is expected to be won easily by former Gov. Roy Barnes, who lost re-election to Perdue in 2002 in a huge upset after he changed the state flag to shrink the size of Confederate imagery. Barnes had a fun ad earlier this summer suggesting that America “was laughing” at Georgia over proposed state legislation dealing with microchips in people’s brains, and on secession from the United States.

The polls close tonight at 7 p.m. ET.