With virtually all precincts reporting as of early today, Deal, a former member of the U.S. House, led Handel by about 2,500 votes, or 0.4 percent of more than 580,000 ballots cast, the Associated Press said. An unknown number of provisional ballots as well as those cast by Georgians living overseas and military personnel remained to be counted, AP said.
Under Georgia law, a losing candidate can seek a recount if the margin is less than 1 percent, AP said.
Palin, Romney, Huckabee and Gingrich all are possible 2012 presidential candidates.
Handel and Deal squared off in the runoff because neither candidate got more than 50 percent of the ballots in the Georgia’s July 20 primary. Handel won 34 percent of that vote. Deal, who resigned his House seat in March to seek the governorship, had 23 percent.
Palin, the former Alaska governor, had joined Handel on the campaign trail yesterday. At a rally in Atlanta, Palin urged voters to end what she called a “good ol’ boy network” by supporting Handel.
Democrat Roy Barnes, 62, a former governor, won enough votes in the July 20 primary to avoid a runoff and claim his party’s gubernatorial nomination.
The state’s term-limits law prevents Republican Governor Sonny Perdue from running again.