In addition to Handel's allegation that Deal is "corrupt," and her suggestion at a debate that he put on the "big boy pants" to toughen up against her campaign's negative ads, Deal has recently noted Handel lacks a college degree. Supporters of Deal have painted Handel as being soft on abortion and gay rights, inflammatory accusations in this race.
Last month, POLITICO quoted Melanie Crozier, the director of Georgia Right to Life's Political Action Committee, as saying that "under Karen Handel's laws, Handel would have felt like it was OK to go in and abort" Palin's son with Down syndrome, because she would allow for abortions in the case of rape, incest or when the life of the mother is threatened.
At the event here in Buckhead, Palin said the anti-abortion group "kinda crossed a line," with the attack which she called "pretty disgusting."
Handel's campaign called Crozier's statement a "cruel and revolting lie," and Palin suggested it made her want to behave like a "Mama Grizzly," who, she has famously said, stands on her hind legs to defend her cubs.
"Yeah, you want to get me to leave the commercial fishing grounds and fly all the way across the country – across four time zones – to defend a candidate's position?" Palin said, seeming to suggest the attack was that which – more than anything – prompted her appearance here.
Recent surveys show a Palin endorsement can boost a Republican candidate's chances of winning a primary, but shed doubt on whether her backing will help a hopeful win in November.
Among Republicans, Palin is the most popular among prospective GOP presidential candidates in 2012, according to a Gallup survey released in mid-July, with a 76% favorability rating that beats out Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney.
A Pew Research/National Journal poll released last week shows 41% of Republicans nationwide say they'd be more likely to vote for a candidate whom Palin campaigned for, while only 15% said her endorsement would make them less likely to do so.
But among independents, only 15% said Palin's efforts would make them more likely to vote for her pick. Nearly half, 47%, said an endorsement would make no difference and 36% indicated they'd be less likely to vote for a candidate Palin supported.
Overall, among all voters, eight-in-ten told Pew pollsters an endorsement from the former Alaska governor would either make their vote for a candidate less likely, or make no difference at all.