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Obama coasts to win in Ga.; GOP race tighter
020508 ELECTIONS 1
Edna Grant, lower left, and other Statesboro and Bulloch County residents exercise their right to vote at the Williams James Educational Complex during Tuesday's primary elections. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

Super Tuesday 0001

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    ATLANTA — Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama coasted to a win Tuesday in Georgia over rival Hillary Rodham Clinton, riding a wave of support from the state’s large black population.
    Blacks comprise about half of the Democratic primary vote in Georgia and surveys of people as they left polling places showed they lined up overwhelmingly behind Obama, an Illinois senator seeking to become the nation’s first black president.
    ‘‘Obama is just better because he makes people, like myself, get up and want to do something positive,’’ said Felix Omigie, a 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.’’
    On the Republican side, U.S. Sen. John McCain, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and ex-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee were locked in a three-way contest. Polls closed at 7 p.m.
    Obama 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 right leader’s birthday. But Clinton made him work for the win. The former first lady had the backing of prominent black leaders such as U.S. Rep. John Lewis, a civil rights hero, and former Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young.
    Many voters in Georgia said Tuesday they were moved by Obama’s message more than his skin color.
    ‘‘I didn’t want to vote for Obama just because he was black,’’ said Jacqueline Jenkins, a 42-year-old administrative assistant and part-time college student who voted outside Albany. ‘‘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.’’
    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 head to work. One watchdog group said people waited in lines for more than two hours. At one point, Obama’s campaign considered asking the state to keep some Atlanta-area precincts open late.
    In all, residents in Georgia and 23 other states were making their picks for the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees on Super Tuesday.
    Carmen Riddel, a 72-year-old retired teacher, affixed an Obama campaign pin to her coat as she left one poll in a wealthy Atlanta neighborhood.
    ‘‘I wanted to make my vote count. I wanted to take part in this presidential. It’s historical in many ways,’’ said Riddel, who is black. ‘‘I would have voted for him no matter what race he was. I feel he’s so qualified. He’s an outstanding person. He wants all the races to get together and he wants to make peace in the world.’’
    Teneca Williams, 21, a black nursing student and restaurant cashier, said she was torn.
    ‘‘I was in between Obama and Hillary,’’ she said Tuesday morning after voting at an elementary school in Albany. ‘‘Both of them seem like they could be good presidents, but it seemed like one has more experience. I considered their accomplishments and their experience. It was Clinton. It was a tough choice.’’
    Republican had a tougher time. At least sought divine guidance before casting a ballot.
    ‘‘I just had to pray and pray. I said, ’OK, Lord, you know what’s going to happen,’’’ said Margaret Trussell, a 74-year-old white, retired office worker from McDonough, who ended up voting for Romney.
    It was an easier choice for Gloria Faulkner, a Savannah voter who opted for McCain because of his military experience and support for the Iraq War.
    ‘‘The military needs some help, quick,’’ said Faulkner, a 62-year-old homemaker whose husband spent 27 years in the Air Force. ‘‘With McCain being retired from the military and a former prisoner of war, he’s had a lot of experience in leading people.’’
    The day was not without some problems at the polls.
    The state branch of national election monitoring group Election Protection said some computers being used to verify voters’ IDs and registrations crashed, causing long waits. State officials said those problems were isolated and being fixed and that heavy interest in the election was the real reason behind any delays.
    ‘‘In a presidential election year with highly contested nomination races on both parties, lines are a function of the popularity of the contest,’’ said Matt Carrothers, a state elections spokesman.
    Intense interest in the election was easy to spot even before people cast ballots. State voter rolls swelled in the final weeks before the registration deadline and, in all, some 5.2 million Georgians were eligible to vote, more than ever before. Early voting was about five times higher than it was in the Democratic contest in 2004, when nearly 50,000 people either voted in advance or cast absentee ballots.

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