Early voting indicates large turnout possible

ATLANTA --- Georgians get their chance Tuesday to weigh in on a presidential nomination race that has already lasted more than a year.

As one of the many states holding primaries or caucuses, Georgia will select delegates for this summer's nominating conventions and help determine who the major-party candidates are on November's ballots. Early voting and absentee-ballot requests have been strong, indicating a heavy turnout.

Many of the candidates and their major surrogates have been in the state during the past week to keep the enthusiasm high.

An InsiderAdvantage survey released Thursday suggests the race in Georgia won't be that close, with Barack Obama leading Hillary Clinton by 16 points among those planning to vote or who had already voted in the Democratic primary, and John McCain 11 points ahead of Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee, who are tied.

On the GOP side, conservatives and pragmatists are at loggerheads.

Mr. McCain has been accused of not being conservative, though national polls show he could beat either Democrat running and he has won endorsements from leaders such as House Speaker Glenn Richardson -- who had been Rudy Giuliani's statewide chairman until the former New York City mayor withdrew last week.

"John McCain will cut wasteful government spending, defend us against the threat of radical Islamic extremism and appoint conservative judges to our courts," Mr. Richardson said.

Mr. Huckabee and Mr. Romney are considered more conservative, but they don't win in those head-to-head match-ups with the Democratic candidates.

Mr. Romney has the support of people such as U.S. Reps. Jack Kingston, R-Savannah, and Lynn Westmoreland, R-Grantville.

Age is as much of a demographic factor in the GOP contest as anything else, says pollster Matt Towery of InsiderAdvantage.

"First, just like in Florida, senior voters are overwhelmingly in support of McCain here in Georgia, and they make up a good portion of the Republican vote in Georgia," he said. "The second part is Huckabee is drawing from voters who might otherwise go with Romney."

The differences between the two Democrats are less philosophical than biological, and their support generally divides along the same lines, Mr. Towery said.

Mr. Obama gets more than seven in 10 black votes, and Mrs. Clinton has a large majority of the women's vote.

Mr. Obama is also betting on doing as well outside cities as he did in South Carolina, where he won 44 of the 46 counties, according to his campaign manager David Plouffe.

Political scientist Daniel Franklin of Georgia State University figures that edge could help Mr. Obama across the board on Super Tuesday.

"In America, it turns out that it may be more difficult to elect a woman than an African-American to the presidency," he said.

WHICH PRIMARY DO YOU VOTE IN?

Unlike some other states, voters in Georgia aren't registered by political party. They can decide at the polls whether they want to vote in either the Republican or Democratic primary -- just not both.

Sometimes, voters have cast ballots for the other party because they wanted a hand in picking the opponent for their true favorite candidate to face in the general election.

In July, you can choose to vote in a different primary when nominees are picked for other races, such as Congress, U.S. Senate and all of the members of the state General Assembly.