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Turnout light at Del. polls; Gingrich seeks upset
WILMINGTON, Del. — Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich will learn Tuesday night whether the time and attention he has devoted to Delaware resonated with the state's presidential primary voters.
Delaware Republicans were voting in the GOP primary, with 17 winner-take-all delegates at stake.
Light turnout was reported.
State elections commissioner Elaine Manlove said there were no problems with the balloting.
Gingrich, former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, crisscrossed the state in recent weeks, hoping a victory in Delaware will provide momentum for him to continue campaigning in other states after Tuesday. But if GOP front-runner Mitt Romney were to win Delaware, "I think you would have to stop and take a deep breath," Gingrich said Monday night during his final Delaware campaign appearance.
The only other visit to Delaware by a GOP presidential candidate was a brief stop by Romney earlier this month in Wilmington, just hours after his closest rival, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, abandoned the race.
In the days leading up to Tuesday's primary, Gingrich's focus on Delaware paid off with endorsements from two GOP officials who previously endorsed Romney, including Republican National Committeewoman Priscilla Rakestraw, a longtime leader in the state Republican Party.
"Just the fact that he's been so committed to Delaware has been really great," said Sen. Colin Bonini, Dover Republican, a longtime Gingrich supporter who introduced Gingrich at his first campaign appearance and was the first elected official in Delaware to endorse him.
"We're going to try to deliver this for you, Mr. Speaker," Bonini told Gingrich on Monday night.
Gingrich has visited Delaware at least eight times in the past month, spreading his message about the need for limited government, balanced budgets and American energy independence.
"It's the kind of state where people actually know each other," he said Monday, extolling the virtues of the Brandywine Zoo and the museum at Dover Air Force Base.
Delaware is holding its Republican presidential primary along with Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. Gingrich has not won a presidential primary since finishing first in his home state of Georgia on March 6.
Delaware's polls are open until 8 p.m.
Only Republicans, who account for about 178,000 of the state's 613,000 registered voters, are allowed to vote in the GOP primary.
State Rep. Greg Lavelle, state coordinator for the Romney campaign, said that even if Gingrich were to pull off an upset, Romney is going to be the party's presidential nominee and the party needs to unite behind him to win the White House.
"Protest votes at this point are meaningless," Lavelle said, adding that rewarding Gingrich with votes simply because he spent time in Delaware doesn't make sense.
"It's parochial beyond belief at this point," said Lavelle, Wilmington Republican. "... Ultimately, what is the point, other than his ego?"
A man who declined to give his name as he left a polling place Tuesday at F. Niel Postlethwait Middle School in Camden said casting a ballot for Gingrich would be a waste because he wasn't going to win the nomination.
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