Obama, Huckabee win Georgia
Young voters, blacks push Illinois senator to victory

ATLANTA - Fueled by black voters and a message of change, Barack Obama swept to a commanding victory in Georgia's Democratic presidential primary while Republican Mike Huckabee edged out his GOP rivals with the help of a folksy style and a campaign that weighed heavily on conservative values in a successful bid to attract Christian evangelicals.

The primaries generated intense interest in Georgia, which appeared to break its 20-year-old record for the number of people who cast ballots. With more than 80 percent of precincts reporting, more than 1.5 million votes had been tallied.

Obama, an Illinois senator, had cultivated black support in the state, speaking from the pulpit of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s church the day before the federal holiday honoring the slain civil rights leader. Blacks comprise about half of the Democratic primary vote in Georgia, and exit poll data showed that nearly 90 percent of them voted for Obama, who is seeking to become the nation's first black president.

But his support in the state transcended skin color and age. He also won younger voters and performed surprisingly well with white male voters.

'Obama is just better because he makes people, like myself, get up and want to do something positive,' said Felix Omigie, a black 42-year-old truck driver from Riverdale. 'I can see that he is trying to tap more into the younger generation. He can relate to them.'

Clinton did win among white women and among voters older than 65. Obama held his own against the former first lady with white men, according to the exit poll data. But Clinton made him work for the win. The former first lady had the backing of prominent black leaders such as Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights hero, and former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young.

'What we're seeing is a groundswell of support and a number of people willing to break with the old traditions,' said William Jelani Cobb, a history professor at Spelman College and an Obama supporter.

Many voters in Georgia said Tuesday they were moved by Obama's message more than his skin color.

'I think Clinton, she just polarizes people. She and Bill make a bad combination as far as trying to bring us into a new era of American politics,' said Chip Harris, a white, 33-year-old executive from Savannah.

Jacqueline Jenkins, 42, a black administrative assistant and part-time college student who voted outside Albany, said race was not a factor for her.

'I didn't want to vote for Obama just because he was black,' Jenkins said. 'I didn't want to vote for Hillary just because she's a woman. I think both bring a lot to the table. I just think Obama would be a better choice.'

Huckabee, a former Arkansas governor and Baptist minister, edged out Arizona Sen. John McCain and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney for the victory.

Georgia, with its stalwart base of religious voters, had been critical for Huckabee. He also cast himself as the champion of the 'Wal-Mart Republican' rather than the 'Wall Street' wing of the party represented by Romney.

Six in 10 GOP voters on Tuesday were white evangelicals and born-again Christians. Huckabee won four in 10 of their votes, according to surveys of voters as they left the polls.

Jeff Spencer was one of them. A Baptist minister in rural Bryan County east of Savannah, Spencer said social issues were his top concern.

'Before Huckabee came up, there wasn't a real conservative, Republican view in the race as far as the right wing goes,' Spencer said.

The election was the first statewide in which Georgia required a photo identification of all voters casting their ballots in person. Some sporadic problems were reported, in part because people could not wait out delays caused by the ID checks before they had to leave for work.

SideBar: Obama claims quick win

By Dave Williams

Staff Writer


ATLANTA - The partying started early Tuesday night for supporters of Barack Obama.

At 7 p.m., the moment the polls closed, the U.S. senator from Illinois was projected the winner of Georgia's Democratic primary based on exit polls.

The Fox Sports Grill at Atlantic Station, site of the Obama campaign's election night watch party, erupted in cheers and sign waving.

Moments later, cries of 'Yes we can!' - the campaign's signature chant - burst forth from many of several hundred gathered inside the restaurant.

With 89 percent of the precincts reporting, Obama led New York Sen. and former first lady Hillary Clinton in Georgia, 63 percent to 34 percent.

As was the case in Obama's win in South Carolina last month, the strongest black candidate for president in U.S. history was dominating among black voters.

But there was more to his appeal than that, said state Sen. David Adelman, D-Decatur, co-chairman of Obama's Georgia campaign.

"I think the big change in the electorate is the number of young people who participated this year," Adelman said.

Indeed, young people drawn to Obama's message of change made up a large portion of the crowd last spring when he drew an estimated 20,000 people to an outdoor rally on the campus of Georgia Tech, one of the largest rallies in the nation during this campaign season.

"The difference between him and others is he has reached out to young people," said Ashley Blowe of Hampton, Va., a Spellman College freshman on hand for Tuesday night's party.

Adelman also credited Obama's strong showing in Georgia to a large grass-roots effort that included eight field offices across the state and thousands of volunteers.

While Obama wasn't in Georgia in person on election night, many of those at the Fox Sports Grill greeted him in spirit.

Even before the results were announced, young supporters were lining up at the front of the restaurant with their cell phone cameras, having friends take their pictures standing beside a life-size cardboard cutout of the candidate.