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Inside Politics

Exit polls: Kerry seen as able to beat Bush

Many worried about economy chose Massachusetts senator

Voters fill out ballots for local elections and the Democratic primary at the South Shaftsbury Fire Department in Shaftsbury, Vermont.
Voters fill out ballots for local elections and the Democratic primary at the South Shaftsbury Fire Department in Shaftsbury, Vermont.

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start quoteOur campaign is about building a fairer, safer, more prosperous America.end quote
-- Sen. John Kerry
Stay with CNN-USA for ongoing reports and analysis on the impact of the Super Tuesday primaries and caucus. CNN's correspondents and analysts review the votes, weigh the consequences and chart what's next in the 2004 political season.
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Total delegates at stake: 1,151 of 2,162 needed to win the Democratic presidential nomination 

How many states have primary events: 10

States involved: Primaries are held in California, Connecticut, Georgia, Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, Vermont; a caucus is held in Minnesota

Earliest poll closing: 7 p.m. ET -- Georgia, Vermont 

Latest poll closing: 11 p.m. ET -- California 

Compiled by Robert Yoon and Mark Rodeffer
America Votes 2004
Super Tuesday
Democratic candidates

(CNN) -- Many primary voters who handed Sen. John Kerry his Super Tuesday victories were looking for a candidate who has the "right experience" and can beat the Republican incumbent, President Bush.

Anger or dissatisfaction with the Bush administration fueled balloting in California, Ohio, Connecticut, Maryland, Vermont, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York and Georgia, according to exit polls.

Polling was not conducted in Minnesota, which held caucuses.

Exit polls found that Kerry also did well among African-Americans and Jews, respondents 65 and older, and those who thought the Democratic debates were important.

Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, who is expected to withdraw from the race Wednesday, appealed to respondents looking for a candidate who "cares about people." He also did well among independents, the few Republicans who voted and those who decided on a candidate close to poll time.

About half of respondents in Georgia and well over a third in Ohio listed the economy as their main issue. But only about one-third of those polled in New York, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Vermont put the economy first.

Kerry won a majority of those respondents who put the economy first, but also did well with those who made the war in Iraq or health care their main issue.

Wealthier, more-educated and older respondents in Vermont favored native son and former Gov. Howard Dean, and helped give him his only projected primary victory to date, two weeks after he suspended his campaign.

But despite Dean's groundswell of support, about two-thirds of Vermont respondents said they would be satisfied if Kerry were to win the Democratic nomination. About three-quarters said they trusted Kerry on national security, but only half said they thought he stood up to special interests.

Edwards was not on the ballot in Vermont.

The economy and jobs narrowly outpaced health care and Iraq as the top issues for Vermont exit poll respondents, less of a gap than in most other Super Tuesday states.

In Georgia, the economy and jobs outdistanced all other issues -- including taxes, education, Iraq and national security -- with about half of respondents calling it their top issue in a race that CNN has projected will go to Kerry.

A referendum on the state flag drew Republicans and independents to Georgia's open primary. Kerry did better among those who said the primary was their focus, while Edwards fared better among those drawn by the flag issue.

More-liberal respondents and poorer, less-educated respondents were more likely to back Kerry, as were women, who make up more than half the voters in Georgia. The two candidates split the male vote.

Black exit poll respondents, about half of the electorate in Georgia, supported the Massachusetts senator by about a 3-1 margin.

In California, close to three-quarters of the 16 percent of exit poll respondents who identified themselves as Latinos voted for Kerry.

Kerry did especially well among Jewish respondents in Connecticut and among those in New York's suburbs. Edwards did relatively well among singles, Kerry better among married respondents.

Opinions on same-sex unions varied by region.

In New England and into New York, between one-third and nearly one-half of respondents in the early exit polls said they support legalizing gay marriage.

About another third of respondents were OK with civil unions but said they don't support same-sex marriage.

Just over half of Ohio respondents backed either gay marriages or civil unions, with more than a third saying they backed neither.

In Georgia, half of the respondents said they do not want to see any legal recognition of gay relationships.

The Democratic candidates were not arguing in vain during two debates this past week, as many polled Tuesday said those debates affected their choice.

More than half of New York's early respondents said the debates were important in their vote, as did two-thirds of respondents in Maryland and Ohio, as well as almost two-thirds of those in Georgia.

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