ATLANTA (AP) — Republican Mitt Romney beat Democrat Barack Obama in Georgia’s presidential election on Tuesday, an expected outcome in a GOP-dominated state.

Though both Romney and Obama raised money in Georgia, neither mounted a major campaign here. Georgia shifted strongly Republican years ago, and the GOP holds every statewide office. Romney picks up the state’s 16 electoral votes.

Although Georgia is a bastion for Republicans, it has not always favored Romney. During the state’s presidential primary in March, exit polling showed Romney had trouble attracting two big parts of the local GOP base: voters who describe themselves as “very conservative” and evangelicals. Former Georgia Congressman and House Speaker Newt Gingrich won the GOP primary in March, getting 47 percent of the vote compared to 26 percent for Romney. Gingrich later dropped out of the race.

Attorney General Sam Olens, who chaired Romney’s Georgia campaign, described the election as a good sign for local Republicans ahead of the 2014 governor’s race.

“Clearly, the Democrats are trying to make a statement that they can come back in two years,” Olens said in a phone interview. “The better we show with Gov. Romney, it shows how far the Democratic Party is really dormant in our state.”

Voters frequently cited the economy when explaining their votes. Clayton Churchville, a 20-year-old college student from Augusta, voted for Romney and said new leadership was needed in the White House to turn around the sputtering economy.

“I just feel like he’s the change we need,” Churchville said. “Obama’s had his turn and nothing got better.”

But Ron Adams of Augusta, a 56-year-old information support specialist, voted to give Obama another term. He said he felt the president did the best he could with the nation’s economic crisis.

“With the resistance he had from Republicans (in Congress), I still think he’s got us on the path to improving our economy and will have a better four years,” Adams said.

Die-hard Republicans saw the choice as simple.

“There’s nothing about Obama that’s good for our country and our nation,” said Lillian Petrie, 80, of Thomasville. “I would have voted for Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck.”

Petrie, who cast her ballot last week, said she could see from her own life that the country was having problems. She said the premium on her supplemental health insurance plan was going up by nearly $600 next year. She said interest rates are too low, which hurts retirees trying to make money off their retirement savings. She also claimed that Obama is a Muslim, which she believes should disqualify him from the presidency. Obama is Christian.

Margaret Singletary, 70, a Democrat from Thomasville, voted for Obama mainly because she supported his health care overhaul.

“I feel that he has really put forth an effort even though he has not achieved all his goals,” she said. “I feel like he has done it at the fate of losing a re-election.”

Democrats in Georgia have been watching Obama’s performance as an indicator of whether they can revive their flagging party. Obama lost Georgia in 2008, though he still took 47 percent of the vote, a better-than-normal showing for a Democratic candidate in Georgia during an election that saw heavy voter turnout. The last Democrat to win Georgia, Bill Clinton, took just 43 percent of the vote in an election that featured independent Ross Perot, who siphoned off support from the major party candidates.

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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