PHOENIX (AP) — In a state that has long been considered friendly territory for the GOP, Arizonans gave their vote to Mitt Romney in the U.S. presidential race and chose another Republican, Jeff Flake, to represent them in the U.S. Senate.
Arizona had been considered an uphill battle for President Barack Obama, considering Democratic nominees have won it just once since 1948, but he won the race nationally.
Among voters who wanted a president who shares their values and is a strong leader, Romney took commanding leads over President Barack Obama.
Romney drew support from white voters and those over 65 years old, while Obama won high marks among Hispanics and younger voters, according to results of exit polling conducted Tuesday for The Associated Press and television networks.
Jex Engelbrecht, a 32-year-old doctoral student at Arizona State University in Tempe, cast his vote for Romney, saying the country was in shambles.
"He (Obama) hasn't done anything to improve the situation for us," Engelbrecht said. "The economy is worse, employment is worse, and there's nothing I can support that he's been part of."
Arizona voters considered the economy the most important issue facing the country, and they were overwhelmingly pessimistic, according to exit poll returns.
Asked to pick the most important issue among four choices, about six in 10 said the economy while one-fifth said they were worried most about the federal budget deficit. Most rated the economy as "not so good or poor."
A majority of voters said Romney would better handle the economy. Obama scored well among voters who believe he is in touch with "people like you."
Romney's victory in Arizona gave him 11 electoral votes but he fell short of what he needed nationally. The election in Arizona also featured the hard-fought U.S. Senate race that ended in a loss for Democrat Richard Carmona. National Democrats and Republicans were watching three U.S. House contests in Arizona that were too close to call late Tuesday night.
Republicans maintained control over both chambers of the state Legislature but saw their majorities shrink. Arizonans rejected ballot measures for a permanent sales tax increase and the adoption of a top-2 primary election system.
The state didn't draw much attention from Romney or Obama this year, with each candidate visiting just once in 2012.
Obama poured no resources into Arizona in 2008 when his opponent was home-state Sen. John McCain. This time around, he opened six offices and, like Romney, had been courting the Hispanic vote.