Poll worker Dollie Scott points the way for voters who cast their ballots… (John Spink / Atlanta Journal…)
Reporting from Marietta, Ga. — Voters who cast ballots on Super Tuesday afternoon in Newt Gingrich's old precinct in an affluent neighborhood north of Atlanta appeared to be tilting toward their former congressman, with some dismissing Mitt Romney as inauthentic and out of touch.
But more than a few also found reasons to ditch the onetime Georgian, who is hoping a convincing victory in the state's Republican presidential primary will invigorate his campaign.
Frank Dillon, a retired salesman who said he was also a recording artist in the 1960s, knew Gingrich enough to say hello. "I've always admired him. Looking back on his career, he's a very, very intelligent man," he said, recalling how Gingrich orchestrated the GOP takeover of the House in 1994, the first time the party controlled the chamber in 40 years. "He's tough. He's hard. I think that, putting him against Obama, he would do well in the debates."
The 66-year-old said he likes Rick Santorum but not Romney. "He doesn't seem that he's a genuine individual," he said. "I don't think that he really has the pulse of the people."
Bill King, a self-employed computer consultant, said the former House speaker's intelligence appealed to him, as well as his accomplishments during the 20 years he represented Georgia.
"He's demonstrated with the Contract With America that he's a skilled politician that can bring diverse parties together and accomplish goals. He has a track record," the 63-year-old said, referring to Gingrich's promises to the American people that led to his speakership.
Gingrich once lived not far from polling place at Holy Family Catholic Church, where Mass is said in English, Spanish and Portuguese. An American flag flapped in the breeze. Voters walked near a "Memorial to the Unborn" erected in 1998. The dedication reads: "In prayerful testimony to the sanctity of life and in loving memory of the innocent victims of abortion." Most voters exited wearing stickers with a orange peach and the words: "I'm a Georgia voter."
The former House speaker, who was first elected to Congress in 1978, has lived in Virginia since he resigned in 1999. But he has claimed Georgia, where he moved as a high school junior in 1960, as his home state. He expects to win the state, and polls suggest he will.
Alex Moore, an independent, showed up to vote against the Republicans. The African American psychologist, 65, described himself as a fiscal conservative who votes for the candidate, not the party. But he cast what he said was a vote of protest for Obama in the Democratic primary because he said he was disappointed in the Republican Party's candidates.
"I think they have played to individual fears and social fears," he said, saying he wants a president who can bridge the divide that separates the parties in Congress. "No one has articulated a position for the whole of the country in the Republican field. It's been more personal attacks and not really focusing on the critical issues."
William Sidner, a real estate broker and retired Navy commander, said the choice was the hardest one he has ever faced at the polls. "Of course, everybody loves Newt around here, so they say," he said. "He's served us well here and he still has a lot of loyalty."
The 70-year-old said he had voted for Gingrich and would vote for him again, if he were running for Congress. But the White House, he said, was a different matter. "The president's got to exercise good judgment all the time," he said, suggesting Gingrich could be "a loose cannon."
He voted for Romney. "I just like Romney's temperament better, I guess," he said.
So did Virginia Crutchfield's husband, who said he thought too many voters would not support Gingrich. That surprised Crutchfield, a 72-year-old mother of two and grandmother of six, who thought he had joined her in voting for Gingrich. "I like his ideas. I wasn't thinking about whether he's electable," she said. "When I've watched him in the debates, I think he's well-spoken. He just seems to have ready answers and, to me, they made sense."
Larry Feldstein, a 60-year-old real estate agent, also cast his ballot for Mitt Romney, citing his experience in business, as the head of a private equity firm, and in government, as the governor of Massachusetts. He also voted for him in the 2008 GOP primary. "I think he's got the most comprehensive knowledge across the board to get the job done," he said.
He didn't vote for Gingrich, he said, because of his affairs and divorces and because he has sided with former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) on issues such as global warming. Romney, he said, was a "good family man." "That's important to me, personally," he said. "I think a solid family life tends to translate to being a good president."
Still, he predicted a Georgia victory for Gingrich. "He's considered a Georgian even though his legal residence is in Virginia," he said.