9:40am

Wed March 7, 2012
Conservative Christians Credited with Santorum Win

Santorum Wins Big in Tennessee

NASHVILLE, Tenn (AP/WMOT) — An exit poll of voters in Tennessee's presidential primary showed Rick Santorum beat Mitt Romney thanks to strong support among born-again Christians — about three-quarters of those who went to the polls on Tuesday.

Santorum also led Romney 3 to 1 among those who said it mattered a "great deal" that a candidate shared their religious beliefs.

Mary Cecil, a retiree voting in Sevierville, said she was concerned about the economy, but the deciding factor in casting her vote for Santorum was: "I would like to have a true Christian in the White House."

Preliminary poll results showed Santorum leading Romney in Tennessee by about 10 percentage points and Newt Gingrich by about 15, according to an exit poll conducted by Edison Research for The Associated Press.

Santorum had a more than 2-to-1 lead over Romney among voters who considered themselves "very conservative." He also led among voters who supported the tea party by about 14 percentage points. Romney led among voters who considered themselves "moderate" or "liberal." He also led among voters with an annual income of more than $100,000.

More than 9300 Rutherford County voters cast ballots for Santorum. Romney came in a distant second in the county  with about 5500 votes.