Updated at 10:10 p.m.: U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson was on a Wall Street Journal webcast this evening:
”I think the preliminary surprise might be a surprise showing by Santorum in both Tennessee and Oklahoma. Quick frankly, it’s not going to be a conclusive night , it does not look like.
“….If Romney is able to pull Ohio out, and add it to Vermont, Virginia and Massachusetts, he will have had a great night. If Santorum pulls off Ohio, he will have had a terrific night.
As for Newt Gingrich, Isakson had this assessment, post-Georgia: “He has a tough row to hoe.”
Updated at 9:40 p.m.: In 2008, Mitt Romney won Gwinnett County with 35 percent of the vote. He won Fulton County with 40 percent.
Tonight, Romney is losing Gwinnett County with 29 percent of the vote — despite his Sunday pancake breakfast in Snellville. Newt Gingrich has 48 percent.
In Fulton County, Romney is doing better, pulling 45 percent. Ann Romney’s visit to Alpharetta last week is paying off.
Updated at 9:30 p.m.: Here’s Rick Santorum’s problem in Georgia: He’s coming in second in eight of Georgia’s 14 congressional districts.
But in six of those districts, Gingrich is either over or approaching 50 percent. Gingrich could sweep the three delegates in each.
And we have yet to really hear from Mitt Romney tonight. His metro Atlanta voters have yet to be tallied.
Updated at 9:10 p.m.: Why did Newt Gingrich pick the Renaissance Atlanta Waverly in the Cumberland-Galleria complex for his party tonight?
Because it’s where, in 1994, he learned he would be the next U.S. House speaker.
Who was standing behind him in the TV picture? The fellow who looked like Robert E. Lee was Lauren “Bubba” McDonald, a member of the state Public Service Commission. Then, left to right, were former state Sen. John Wiles of Kennesaw, former state Sen. John Douglas of Social Circle, and current state Sen. Judson Hill of Marietta.
Updated at 8:35 p.m.: Here’s an odd point for you: According to exit polls, Mitt Romney, who is very famously not Catholic, won the Catholic vote in Georgia (41 percent). Over two Catholics, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum.
And thrice-married Gingrich gathered up the support of 50 percent of white evangelicals — while Santorum came in a distant second with 24 percent.
Updated at 8:25 p.m.: Newt Gingrich is above or close to the 50 percent mark in 10 of Georgia’s 14 congressional districts. The only area where Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney are close to parity with him is the First District, occupied by U.S. Rep. Jack Kingston.
Updated at 7:45 p.m.: In returns now being tallied by the secretary of state’s office, Newt Gingrich is showing strong form in the two north Georgia congressional districts where Rick Santorum must do well in order to salvage the night.
Returns are still sketchy, but in the 14th District, occupied by U.S. Rep. Tom Graves, R-Ranger, Gingrich is pulling better than 35 percent. Santorum is at 34.7 percent, and Mitt Romney is at 22 percent.
In the 9th District, which stretches to Georgia’s northeast corner, Gingrich is at 49.9 percent – on the verge of being able to claim all three delegates awarded with that district. Romney is at 25 percent and Santorum is at 22 percent.
Updated at 7:15 p.m.: Now that Newt Gingrich has been declared winner of his second Deep South state, we can say – as we poke through the exit polls:
– Rick Santorum will struggle through the night to maintain the 20 percent needed in Georgia to take a share of Georgia’s 32 statewide, at-large delegates. Unless he does very well in north Georgia, he could be shut out entirely of 42 delegates awarded by congressional district.
– Gingrich won the economy argument: 57 percent of Georgia voters said the economy was the most important issue. The former U.S. House speaker won 48 percent of those votes.
– Gingrich also did best (46 percent) among those picking a Republican who could defeat President Barack Obama in November. Romney came in second with a close 38 percent.
– But Gingrich won the support of only 10 percent of those who said a strong moral character mattered most to them. Santorum shone there, 55 percent.
Original: By exit polls, an angry tea party crowd – but not one particularly fueled by illegal immigration — showed up to vote in Georgia on Tuesday. Among some of the details:
– Georgia’s GOP presidential primary is definitely a tea party contest. Seventy percent said they “strongly” or “somewhat” support the movement.
– Likewise, 91 percent of voters described themselves as “angry” (41 percent) or “dissatisfied” (50 percent) with the federal government.
– Unlike electorates in previous states, last-minute decisions weren’t the rule among today’s Georgia voters. Only 31 percent said they had made up their minds on a candidate within the last few days.
– Two-thirds identify themselves as evangelical.
– But when it comes to the importance of shared religious believe with a candidate, voters expressed some ambivalence: 34 percent said it matters “a great deal,” 35 percent says it matters “somewhat,” and a combined 31 percent said it mattered “not much” or “Not at all.”
– 58 percent said abortion should be illegal in “all” or “most” cases.
– 58 percent identified the economy as the major issue facing the the nation. Only 2 percent said illegal immigration – a measure of how that fiery issue has faded since only last year.
- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider