Democrats In 9 Races Cite Desire For Change

Slowing Economy Focus of GOP Voters In 7 Crucial Contests

Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, February 6, 2008; Page A28

More Democratic voters in nine key Super Tuesday states were motivated by a desire for change than by experience or electability, while Republican voters in seven of the nine primarily focused on the nation's sagging economy, according to network exit polls.

Democrats seeking a new direction went overwhelmingly for Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) in the nine states -- Arizona, California, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Jersey, New York and Tennessee -- but Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) carried the day in some places by winning voters who focused instead on experience. Only in Arizona did the senator from Illinois attract double-digit support from those seeking a more seasoned résumé.

Democratic voters also divided sharply along racial lines, and there was a wide difference in some states between how men and women voted.

Obama beat Clinton by substantial margins among African Americans, while Clinton held the edge among Hispanics in most states. The biggest gap among black voters was in Illinois, where Obama won 94 percent of African Americans, according to the exit polls. In her home state of New York, Clinton picked up nearly four in 10 black voters.

In California, New Jersey and New York, Clinton had a big edge among Hispanic voters; these voters divided more evenly in Arizona and Illinois.

On the Republican side, the economy was seen in seven of the nine states as the single most important concern, and Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) won or was competitive among these voters in all of these states but Massachusetts. In every previous GOP primary and caucus, the candidate prevailing among economy-oriented voters carried the state.

In McCain's home state and in California, however, illegal immigration rivaled the economy as the dominant issue. In both states, its prominence propelled former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.

McCain had failed to win among mainline Republicans in previous contests, but he scored big gains among the party faithful in Illinois, New Jersey and New York. He ran about evenly with either Romney or former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee among self-identified Republicans in Arizona, California, Georgia, Missouri and Tennessee. Independents continued to boost McCain; he won among these voters by significant margins in seven of the nine states.

In the South, Huckabee competed strongly for independent voters. Among Georgia independents, he beat McCain by double-digit percentages, but he lost them narrowly in Tennessee.

Huckabee's best showing was, once again, among evangelical Christians, and his performance yesterday showed little expansion beyond these voters. He reached double-digit support from non-evangelicals in only three states, and in no state did he exceed 20 percent backing from that group.

In five of the nine states, Romney held decisive margins among those who described themselves as "very conservative," and he was competitive with Huckabee among these voters in Georgia, Missouri and Tennessee, where they made up more than three in 10 voters.

McCain had wide margins in most states among those voters who hold negative views of the Bush administration. Veterans went broadly for McCain, except in Massachusetts, where they broke for Romney, and in Georgia, where they split between McCain and Romney.

Moderates were a strong source of support for McCain across the nation. In none of the nine states tracked did he dip below 40 percent among these voters.

Staff researcher Madonna Lebling and database editor Sarah Cohen contributed to this report.

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