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TNR Super Tuesday Primer

Georgia, the empire state of the South, is once again a Super Tuesday state and one of the biggest prizes at stake on February 5. In 1992, it provided Bill Clinton's first win in a primary and backed him in the general election, but has since become solidly Republican at both the state and federal levels. Georgia is the third-largest Southern state (behind Texas and Florida), and is widely considered a must-win state for Barack Obama. It could prove to be Mike Huckabee's strongest Super Tuesday state besides his native Arkansas.

Delegates: 103 (87 at stake in primary; 16 superdelegates) for Democrats; 72 (all at stake in primary) for Republicans

Format: Both parties have open primaries. 57 delegates will be allocated proportionally based on the outcome of the vote in the state's 13 congressional districts (Democrat-heavy districts have more delegates). 30 delegates will be allocated proportionally based on the statewide results. For Republicans, 39 delegates will be allocated by congressional district--three delegates to the winner of each of the state's 13 districts. 33 delegates will go to the candidate winning the statewide popular vote.

Recent polls: See here for a summary of recent Democratic polling in the state (here for the Republicans). On the Democratic side, Obama has held a consistent 15-20 point lead of late, while in the Republican race McCain appears narrowly ahead. In earlier polling, Obama and Huckabee dominated. Rasmussen (1/22) had Obama 41, Clinton 35, Edwards 13; Mason-Dixon (1/10) had Obama 36, Clinton 33, Edwards 14. For the Republicans, Rasmussen (1/22) had Huckabee 34, McCain 19, Romney 16; Mason-Dixon (1/10) had Huckabee 31, McCain 18, Romney 14.

Fundraising: Obama has outraised Clinton more than two-to-one in the state ($1.1 million to $570,000). Even Edwards had raised more than Clinton here ($727,000). Romney has raised the most GOP money in the state ($950,000). Giuliani has raised $770,000, McCain $233,000, and Huckabee a miniscule $75,000.

Demographics: In the 2004 Democratic primary, whites accounted for 49 percent of the vote, African Americans for 47. (In fact, Kerry's six-point victory came on the strength of overwhelming black support; whites broke for Edwards 59-32.) If anything, blacks are expected to make up even more of the vote this time around; the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on January 27 that racial minorities made up more than half of voters newly registered for the primary. Though the Latino population has grown at a very rapid clip (7.5 percent of the population, up from 1.7 percent in 1990), it has yet to assert itself as a force in state politics. Women made up 56 percent of Democratic primary voters in 2004, and there's little reason to expect that figure to change substantially. In the last contested Georgia GOP primary, in 2000, elderly voters dominated--28 percent were above the age of 60. Veterans (27 percent) and self-identified members of the religious right (30 percent) were also critical constituencies, and will likely be again.

Key Endorsements: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution endorsed Obama. The state's congressional delegation is split: Representatives John Lewis and David Scott have endorsed Clinton; Sanford Bishop and Hank Johnson back Obama (all four are African American). Atlanta mayors are also split: current officeholder Shirley Franklin is with Obama; former mayor Andrew Young, who served as U.N. Ambassador during the Carter administration, supports Hillary.

Romney has the backing of four of the state's Republican congressmen, while on February 2, Georgia's two U.S. senators, Saxby Chambliss and Johnny Isakson, endorsed McCain. Governor Sonny Perdue has not endorsed (though Perdue did speak kindly of Huckabee last week, and some political observers considered it a tacit endorsement). Romney has also been endorsed by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, though the paper's editorial board skews to the center-left and curries less influence among Republican primary voters than among Democrats. The influential Georgia Right to Life group is supporting Huckabee.

Analysis: Barring a substantial drop in Obama's support among African Americans, it's very difficult to see Clinton winning the statewide vote. But don't be surprised if she does slightly better in the delegate count. African Americans are largely concentrated in five of the state's thirteen congressional districts (which award a total of 29 delegates); the other eight districts award 28 delegates. Neither candidate has had much time to build a strong field operation, but Obama's looks sharper: He has five offices versus Hillary's one.

For Republicans, the race here is in a major state of flux. No candidate has a strong operation, which is thought to benefit Huckabee, who can count on a devoted network of evangelical volunteers. But it remains to be seen to what extent Huckabee can pick up support in Atlanta's upper middle class, heavily Republican suburbs, which will account for a large chunk of the vote. Another interesting twist, as far as delegates are concerned, is that each congressional district in the state--even the four heavily Democratic districts and two more marginally Democratic districts--will select three delegates. John McCain, who has more appeal to independent voters, could do better where Republicans are scarce. Still, even after Florida, Romney has picked up support from some former Thompson operatives in the state, and has the resources to compete seriously.

For More Information: The Journal-Constitution has a top-drawer politics blog, and Georgia Politics Unfiltered is admirably obsessive. For a list of

other Georgia politics blogs, see here.

Get a rundown of other states at play at TNR's Super Tuesday Primer, updated with new states every day leading up to February 5.