Newt Gingrich speaks to supporters at Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce in Atlanta. (Brendan Smialowski / AFP/Getty…)
Reporting from Washington — Newt Gingrich has won the Republican presidential primary in Georgia, according to the Associated Press.
Georgia was a must-win state for Gingrich, who crafted a Southern state strategy in his long-shot effort to win the Republican presidential nomination. That strategy hinges on a win in Georgia, the state he represented for 20 years as a member of Congress.
The primary was called based on exit polls, as precinct results had just started to come in.
Seventy-six delegates are at stake in the Georgia primary, and Gingrich is unlikely to win all of them. Thirty-four delegates will be awarded proportionally to candidates who receive more than 20% of the statewide vote. If a candidate wins more than 50% of the vote, he’ll win all 34 delegates.
An additional 42 delegates will be awarded based on the results in each of the state’s 14 congressional districts, where the winner in each district will win two delegates and the runner-up will win one delegate. Again, if a candidate wins more than 50% of the vote in a district, he’ll win all three of the district’s delegates.
Gingrich spent as many days in Georgia this year as he spent campaigning in the rest of the Super Tuesday states combined and he announced last week that he would have to win Georgia “to be credible in the race.”
But unlike Mitt Romney’s home state of Massachusetts, Georgia did not go uncontested: Romney and Rick Santorum campaigned there, and a “super PAC” backing Romney outspent the one backing Gingrich in ad spending in the state, according to tallies by NBC News. Restore Our Future, the Romney super PAC, spent $2 million to the $1.3 million spent by the pro-Gingrich group, Winning Our Future.
Former Arkanasas Gov. Mike Huckabee won the state in 2008 with 34% of the vote. John McCain, the eventual nominee, came in second with 32%. Romney placed third with 30%.