Georgia on the mind of Republican 2012 candidates

Southern governor's races are becoming big draws for potential Republican presidential candidates.

Mitt Romney became the latest to weigh into Georgia's contest, endorsing former Secretary of State Karen Handel (R) on Wednesday. 

"A successful businesswoman and public servant, Karen Handel’s blend of executive, political, and business experience is just what Georgia needs at this critical time," Romney said in a statement issued by Handel's camp.

Romney's PAC has also sent her campaign a $1,000 contribution.

Romney played it safe compared to Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich, who both endorsed before Tuesday's primary vote. Palin is also backing Handel, while Gingrich endorsed Nathan Deal (R), his former House colleague.

Palin can claim credit for helping Handel through a competitive seven-way primary race. But she'll be vying with Romney for the accolades of having pushed her over the finish line in the August runoff.

A spokesman for Handel said they've been in talks with Palin about doing an event but nothing's been finalized. Meanwhile, Palin's taken to Twitter to criticize Deal. "Karen Handel is about to 'Bring it on' in a run-off against career politician!" she wrote Wednesday.

A spokesman for Romney did not respond to a question about whether he'll travel to Georgia to campaign with Handel. When he endorsed Republican Nikki Haley in South Carolina, he donated to her campaign and appeared with her in person.

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