There's a saying in Georgia that voters tend to date the rebel but marry the banker, and that may be the outcome of Tuesday's hard-fought GOP primary runoff for an open Senate seat in the Peach State.
Jack Kingston, the affable 11-term congressman, appears to have the momentum and a slight lead in the polls over millionaire former business executive David Perdue in the runoff for the Republican nomination.
But their similarities, rather than differences, have made the race a toss-up to the end. Both men have pushed to the political right in search of primary voters. The possible impeachment of President Obama has been mentioned on the campaign trail. But while conservative rhetoric may help in the primary, some strategists worry that the eventual nominee will appear too extreme for general election voters in November.
Democratic newcomer Michelle Nunn, who is the daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn, represents her party's best chance to play offense in the mid-term election cycle when Republicans are likely to gain seats and could flip the Senate to GOP control.
Republicans have harbored uneasiness that this year could see Georgia turn blue, and the competitive governor's race -- Democrat Jason Carter, the grandson of the former president, has taken a sudden lead over GOP Gov. Nathan Deal in polling -- has only amplified that worry.
After the long GOP Senate primary season, Kingston and Perdue emerged as establishment favorites from the wide-open field of conservative GOP contenders. The seat was made open by the retirement of Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss.
Both Perdue and Kingston once appeared more temperate than the hard-line tea party-backed candidates they defeated to reach Tuesday's runoff. But in the intervening weeks it sometimes has been unclear which one is the rebel and which the banker.
Kingston has scooped up endorsements from both ends of the GOP spectrum, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which has poured more than $2 million into the race, and tea party firebrand Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), the former GOP presidential candidate.
Perdue has self-funded his campaign with more than $3 million from his personal fortune, but has found support by portraying himself as an outsider who has never served in elected office and would change business as usual in Washington. He has also benefited from $2 million in outside spending by a "super PAC" with ties to Ohio conservatives.
Both men were flying from city to city Monday across Georgia in a final push for votes, and the airwaves have been jammed with mostly negative ads.
"Both candidates are in full attack mode," said a GOP strategist, granted anonymity to frankly discuss the campaigns. "It's going to be hard-fought down to the wire."