11:36am

Wed March 7, 2012
Born-Again Christians Led Santorum Charge

Conservatives Credited with Santorum Victory in Tenn.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP/WMOT) — An Associated Press exit poll shows Rick Santorum owes his Tennessee primary victory to strong support among born-again Christians.

Santorum led Republican rival Mitt Romney 3 to 1 among those who say it matters a "great deal" that a candidate share their religious beliefs.  He also led among voters who considered themselves "very conservative," and among voters who supported the tea party.

Romney led among voters who considered themselves "moderate" or "liberal." He also led among voters with an annual income of more than $100,000.

Middle Tennessee State University political scientist Dr. Sekou Franklin says Tennessee conservatives could become victims of their own success.

"What could happen in Tennessee long-term is that there could be an overreach," Franklin says. "This influence of primarily social conservatives and Tea Party conservatives...that they could overreach and turn some people off. Especially if you look at what's going on in the state legislature." 

Dr. Franklin says Rutherford County’s influence is growing statewide as prominent local Republicans push a conservative agenda.