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ATLANTA -- As was the case this morning, Gov. Deal has been able to spend much of his term talking up job creation in Georgia. But that upbeat issue has given way a bit to some stumbles, seized upon by Deal's election opponents.

"If you look at every state agency today, they're worse off than they were when Nathan Deal took office," said Dalton Mayor David Pennington, a Republican challenging Deal next month.

Like the issues marring the state's administration of the food stamp program, and those surrounding the Department of Family and Childrens Services.

"Leadership needs to be visionary. It needs to be proactive." said state superintendent John Barge, also challenging Deal in the GOP primary.

Yet those issues are unlikely to trip up a Republican governor in Georgia seeking re-election, says Andra Gillespie of Emory University.

"The people who would be charged against that are the type of people who wouldn't vote for republicans anyway," Gillespie said.

And Gillespie notes that in this red state, Republican Deal remains the favorite to win. Even with a court verdict this month that embarrassed the governor on ethics.

"The governor had a chance to lead on this issue. And he failed to do it," said Sen. Jason Carter (D-Decatur), also running against Deal.

Jason Carter and other opponents will try to damage Deal on ethics. Yet it's an issue Deal has won before.

"This is a guy who ran for governor under a cloud of ethics suspicion and still got elected anyway. So it's not that I think he's teflon," Gillespie said. "But I don't think we've seen the smoking gun yet that can completely upend his candidacy."

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