NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

February 5, 2008

Clinton wins Massachusetts; Romney takes home state

Associated Press

BOSTON (AP) -- Hillary Rodham Clinton turned back Barack Obama and his high-profile endorsements to win the presidential primary in Massachusetts, while former Gov. Mitt Romney had little trouble defending his home turf against Republican rival John McCain.

The New York senator relied on rank-and-file lawmakers, who cranked up their get-out-the-vote efforts on Super Tuesday to offset Obama's headline-grabbing endorsements from U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy and Gov. Deval Patrick.

"Obama seems like a nice guy, but I'm just worried he doesn't have enough experience to be president," said Bob Poland, 49, a Boston travel agent who also cited Clinton's stance on health care and economic issues.

Romney, criticized for treating Massachusetts as a stepping stone while governor, won his home state by finding favor with voters who support him on immigration and the economy, according to preliminary exit poll results conducted for The Associated Press.

"It's touching to have folks remember us fondly," Romney said after voting Tuesday afternoon in Belmont.

Romney won 51 percent of the vote, compared to 41 percent for McCain and 4 for former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee with 12 percent of the 2,167 precincts reporting.

On the Democratic side, Clinton had 58 percent of the vote to Obama's 39 percent, with 24 percent of precincts reporting.

Kennedy had summoned memories of his brother the slain president when he endorsed Obama a week ago, and Patrick -- who shared Obama's message of hope when he mustered grassroots support for to win the governor's race -- campaigned hard for his fellow Chicagoan.

But Clinton had the network on the ground to get out the votes, with the support of Senate President Therese Murray, who has suggested Clinton lost key endorsements in part because she's a woman, and House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi, who is often at odds with Patrick.

Bob Poland, 49, said he chose Clinton based on her experience.

"Obama seems like a nice guy, but I'm just worried he doesn't have enough experience to be president," said Poland, a travel agent who also cited Clinton's stance on health care and economic issues.

John Stephen Dwyer, a 40-year-old education coordinator from Boston, said he voted for Obama.

"I like his optimism," Dwyer said. "I like his boldness on environmental issues I like his consistency in not supporting our military action overseas."

Turnout was expected to set a record, as even cold rain and sleet across the state didn't stop people from voting in the primary in Massachusetts, one of more than 20 states electing delegates on Super Tuesday.

The largest primary turnout in Massachusetts was in 1980, when just over 1.3 million people voted. The ballot included Sen. Kennedy and Jimmy Carter on the Democratic side, and Republicans Ronald Reagan and George Bush.

Massachusetts may seem like the ultimate Democratic stronghold, but the single largest group of voters here are independents, who comprise half the state's 4 million voters and can cast ballots in either party primary. Registered Democrats account for nearly 37 percent and Republicans make up 12 percent.

Romney and his wife, Ann, voted in their hometown of Belmont mid-afternoon then planned to relax and catch up on mail before watching returns at a Boston hotel.

"That's pretty fun. First time I ever voted for myself for president," said Romney, leaving town hall with a souvenir -- a sample ballot.

Topsfield Republican Mary Jordan said she didn't ultimately decide to vote for Romney until she entered the voting booth.

"I think he's the least unlikeable. I really didn't like any of them," said Jordan, a 43-year-old teacher's aide.

Preliminary exit poll results showed close to half of all Republican and Democratic voters said the economy was the most important challenge facing the nation. For Democratic voters, the war in Iraq placed a close second. For Republican voters, immigration placed second.

Monica Crowley, 40, said she couldn't vote Democratic because she doesn't like talk show host Oprah Winfrey, who supports Obama, and she opposed Clinton's health care plan.

Ultimately, she reasoned that McCain, a staunch supporter of the Iraq war, would actually be most likely to end the conflict because his son, Jimmy, is serving in Iraq.

"I can't believe after what he's been through and having (a son) there that he will allow it to continue," she said of McCain, who won the Massachusetts GOP primary eight years ago.