Photo by Curt Yeomans
Thousands of Clayton County voters joined their counterparts across the state at the polls on Tuesday, for the state’s presidential primary. Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich took the county, along with the rest of Georgia, with a commanding lead over his opponents.
Former U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich dominated his opponents in Clayton County in Georgia’s “Super Tuesday” presidential primary, much the same way he took the rest of the state — by double-digits.
As of 11:17 p.m., with 50 of Clayton County’s 60 precincts counted, Gingrich had a commanding 30-plus point lead over his opponents in Clayton County. He had 3,289 votes, or 53.91 percent of the county’s 6,101 Republican primary votes that had been counted up to that point. Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney trailed far behind, in second place, with 1,243 votes, of 20.37 percent of the votes.
Former Pennsylvania Congressman Rick Santorum, closely followed Romney, with 1,134 votes, or 18.59 percent of the total Clayton County GOP ballots counted. Texas Congressman Ron Paul tallied only 368 votes (6 percent).
Statewide, with 95 percent of Georgia’s voting precincts counted, Gingrich captured 47 percent of the votes cast, followed by Romney with 25.7 percent, Santorum with 19.6 percent, and Paul with 6.5 percent.
“Thank you, Georgia,” Gingrich wrote in a tweet shortly after the polls closed. “It is gratifying to win my home state so decisively to launch our March Momentum.”
The Associated Press is reporting that Gingrich is expected to gain at least 23 delegates from winning Georgia, but the exact delegate total remains to be seen. Under party rules, he automatically receives three delegates for winning the state, and will likely get many of the state’s 31 at-large delegates because he earned more than 20 percent of the votes cast, according to the AP.
But, the remaining 42 delegates will be split up, based on how the candidates did in the state’s congressional districts.
With the primary in his former home state now behind him, the Associated Press is reporting that Gingrich turned his attention to Georgia’s neighbors, Alabama and Mississippi, in a speech to supporters on Tuesday night. He reportedly told them he is the only candidate capable of beating President Barack Obama in November.
“I believe that I am the one candidate who has the ability to debate Barack Obama decisively,” said Gingrich, who said a loss in Georgia would have left him with “no credibility.”
Several GOP voters in Clayton said their biggest reason for going to the polls was that they were looking for someone who could beat Obama in November.
“If I could clone Newt Gingrich, Herman Cain and Ron Paul into a single candidate, and get the best answer to Barack Obama, then I would do that,” said Dave Wayne, a resident of the Lake Spivey area of unincorporated Clayton County.
Kate Wayne, a fellow Lake Spivey resident, and relative of Dave Wayne, added, however, that Gingrich may not necessarily be the ideal candidate to put forward against Obama. “He [just] seems to be the best of what we have to choose from,” she said.
But, as much as some saw Gingrich as that person, a few voters who cast ballots for Romney said the former speaker’s personal baggage kept them from supporting him. As much as they praised Gingrich for his intellect, they also accused him of not having good enough character and morals to beat Obama in a general election.
One Romney supporter accused Gingrich, who has been married multiple times, of trading in his previous wives for “newer models.” That kind of background, some voters said, make him vulnerable to defeat against Obama.
“We love Newt Gingrich ... but he has what we feel is the kind of baggage that makes it hard for him to beat Obama,” said Jonesboro resident, Richard Fabian, who voted for Romney.
His wife, Marlene Fabian, added: “If anybody can beat Obama, it’s Romney, because he doesn’t seem to have as much baggage as the other candidates.”
Although Obama was running unopposed in the Democratic Party presidential primary, 5,095 Clayton County voters still went to the polls and voted in that primary.
— The Associated Press contributed to this report.