ATLANTA (AP) — Democratic Rep. John Barrow can thank Mitt Romney voters willing to cross party lines for re-electing him to Congress in a campaign he was supposed to lose.
Barrow of Augusta defied the odds Tuesday when he defeated Republican Lee Anderson in east Georgia's 12th District, which lawmakers redrew last year to give the GOP a big advantage. Regardless, unofficial returns showed Barrow winning a fifth term with 54 percent of the vote.
An analysis of the vote shows Barrow prevailed by reaching beyond voters supportive of President Barack Obama to win over many independents and Republican voters. Barrow got 138,965 votes — giving him more than 19,000 votes than Obama received in the district. Those weren't all necessarily Romney voters. Libertarian Gary Johnson received fewer than 6,500 presidential votes in the district.
Still, Republicans acknowledged Wednesday they were stunned by the bipartisan support for Barrow.
"We took a drubbing. It was a beating," said Wright McLeod, an attorney from Augusta who ran unsuccessfully in the Republican primary for the seat and threw his support behind Anderson. "I look at Congressman Barrow and, though I've never met him, his ability to withstand this district makes him even more formidable in two years."
During the campaign, Anderson and the National Republican Congressional Committee sought to tie Barrow to Obama as if they were running mates. Anderson rarely said Barrow's name without also mentioning the president.
But Barrow, as the seasoned incumbent, had far more money to spend — $2.6 million compared to just over $1 million raised by his Republican opponent. Barrow spent it on TV ads that talked up his vote against Obama's health-care overhaul, touted his endorsement by conservative business groups and that showed him cocking a rifle to remind voters of his support for the National Rifle Association.
"For every ad that was run against him, I think he ran two," said Rick Allen, the Augusta businessman who also sought the GOP nomination to challenge Barrow. "You'd see a negative ad against Barrow from someone, either the NRCC or an outside group. But every time you saw one of those, John came back with an ad like he's saving taxpayers money."
When Republican lawmakers retooled Barrow's district last year to cut out Savannah, the congressman's home and his Democratic base, it was the second time he'd been rendered politically homeless by redistricting. The same thing had happened years earlier when his hometown of Athens was cut from the 12th District. For the 2012 race, Barrow moved to Augusta — his third zip code after eight years in office.