Newt Gingrich scored a win in Georgia, boosted by his ties to his home state, strong tea party support and a widespread sense among voters there that Mitt Romney is insufficiently conservative, according to exit polls.
Unlike in most other states, Gingrich challenged Romney in Georgia as the candidate most likely to beat President Obama in November, and he topped the former Massachusetts governor among economy voters.
Gingrich also scored big among older voters, winning roughly half those aged 45 and up, beating Romney by nearly 2 to 1. Voters may have rewarded Gingrich for his nearly 20-years as a congressman from the state: He won 62 percent of those who said having “the right experience” was the most important candidate quality.
Evangelicals: Two-thirds of voters in Georgia were evangelicals, about matching South Carolina for high turnout so far this cycle. Gingrich won about half of their votes, outpacing his strong results in South Carolina among this key group.
Tea party: Tea party voters played an outsized role in Georgia. Four in 10 voters described themselves as strong supporters of the movement, among the most numerous of any state that’s voted so far. Gingrich won over half their vote. No candidate has won a majority among strong tea party backers in any state yet. (Romney also won a majority of strong tea party supporters Tuesday in his home state of Massachusetts).
Conservatives: About seven in 10 voters describe themselves as conservative in preliminary exit polls and Gingrich won half of their votes. That’s the best showing for him in any of the states that have voted so far, including his big victory in South Carolina.
These are preliminary results of a poll of 1,833 Republican voters as they exited primary voting places in Georgia on March 6, 2012. The poll was conducted by Edison Media Research for the National Election Pool, The Washington Post and other media organizations.