Moderates Choose Obama, Catholics Go With McCain

Political moderates joined Barack Obama's strong base of Democratic support to help the Illinois senator capture Connecticut in Tuesday's presidential election.

Associated Press exit polls found Obama's appeal among liberals was supplemented by those moderate voters. He even drew support from about one of every four Connecticut voters who describe themselves as conservative.

Republican John McCain found strength among white men and white Catholic voters in Connecticut.

Connecticut hasn't voted Republican in a presidential election since the first President Bush's election in 1988 over Massachusetts Democrat Michael Dukakis.

Obama's strength was evident among many groups of Connecticut voters on Tuesday, including white women, black voters of both genders and people with family incomes under $50,000 yearly.

Some, like Gary Coutu, 55, of Norwich, said they think Obama cares more about the poor. Coutu, who is on Social Security disability benefits, said he hopes a younger candidate with fresh ideas can fix the nation's broken economy.

"The rich should pay like I pay. But the rich get richer because I pay for them and I don't think that's right at all," Coutu said.

Others shared his worries about the economy. It was, by far, the top issue on Connecticut voters' minds Tuesday. About nine of every 10 voters saying they were very worried or somewhat worried about the direction of the U.S. economy in the coming year.

A surge of support from Connecticut's cities also helped Obama on Tuesday as record turnouts were expected and voters reported waiting in long lines to cast their ballots.

Jean and Marie Charles, of New Britain, said they were convinced to vote for Obama after Hillary Rodham Clinton suspended her campaign and endorsed Obama.

 "It's not about color," Marie Charles said. "It's about what's good for me and what's good for the country."

McCain's strongest showing was in the suburbs but, even there, he was significantly outdistanced by Obama.

White Catholic voters, however, leaned more heavily toward McCain.

Connecticut Catholics had been targeted in get-out-the-vote efforts for a ballot question on whether Connecticut should hold a constitutional convention. Conservative groups see that as a way to challenge the recent state Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage.

Despite his support among white men and white Catholics, though, McCain's inability to reach moderate voters gave him a disadvantage in Connecticut -- despite heavy campaigning by independent Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman, who helped McCain try to court that crowd.

McCain enjoyed support from conservative and moderate voters when he defeated former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in the state's Republican primary last February. Those voters also were key to his win over George W. Bush in the 2000 GOP party primary in Connecticut.

But in Tuesday's election, Connecticut voters who considered themselves moderates and independents were strongly in Obama's camp. Even about one of every five voters who consider themselves Republicans cast ballots for Obama.

Gender divisions also were evident as women leaned strongly toward Obama -- including white women, a segment that McCain loyalists hoped would be lured by the addition of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to the GOP ticket.

Only about one of every four white women voted for the McCain/Palin ticket in Connecticut.

While McCain's support lagged among white women, he held a slight edge among white men.

The exit poll of 831 Connecticut voters was conducted for AP by Edison Media Research and Mitofsky International in a random sample of 15 precincts statewide. Results were subject to sampling error of plus or minus 5 percentage points, higher for subgroups.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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