We’d been told to expect the call, and it arrived on the answering machine just before dinner. The machine missed the first few words:
“…Karen Handel’s extremely liberal record on abortion. As commission chair of Fulton County, Karen Handel voted to give over $400,000 to Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider.
“Karen Handel also sat back and watched an additional $800,000 go to this despicable organization. For the pro-life cause and the unborn children in Georgia, Georgia Right to Life asks you to reject Karen Handel on July 20. Thank you.”
The robo-call, presumably made to thousands of Republican voters across the state, is the first significant spending of third-party money in the GOP race for governor.
The Handel campaign has said the Fulton County cash was federal pass-through money directed to a Planned Parenthood unit in downtown Atlanta that performs no abortions.
Handel is the only one of six Republican candidates for governor not endorsed by GRTL, in part because she objects to restrictions the group wants to place on invitro fertilization in Georgia.
But the real dispute is over who will control the “pro-life” label within the Republican party. GRTL demands that candidates for office oppose abortion in all cases, except when the life of the mother is threatened.
Handel calls herself pro-life. But, like many other Republicans, she would also make exceptions for rape and incest.
This is what puzzles many anti-abortion activists about Handel’s endorsement by former Alaskan governor Sarah Palin, who doesn’t recognize exceptions for rape or incest.
Also on the answering machine, among a dozen or so messages from Republican and Democratic candidates, was the voice of Newt Gingrich, speaking up again for his candidate in the GOP governor’s race:
“Nathan Deal is a conservative who’ll be the kind of governor you and I can trust. Nathan Deal is pro-life, a national leader to stop tax dollars from going to illegals, and has a plan to create jobs and cut taxes.”
Which means by Wednesday, through their surrogates, Georgia could be witnessing a clash of two titans in the 2012 Republican presidential contest.