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Romney voters help re-elect Ga. Democrat Barrow

Associated Press Modified: November 7, 2012 at 3:45 pm •  Published: November 7, 2012

Anderson, a state lawmaker and hay farmer from Grovetown, emerged the winner from a bruising four-way primary for the GOP nomination. His blunt, unpolished style and stumbles in primary debates didn't sit well with some GOP voters. Gwen Fulcher Young, a Republican and wife of former Augusta Mayor Bob Young, unflatteringly compared Anderson to 7-year-old reality TV star Honey Boo Boo. She became one of Barrow's most high-profile GOP supporters.

Anderson's refusal to debate Barrow proved part of his undoing.

"I've run into people who said they're not happy with the fact Lee didn't debate," said Robert Finnegan, Republican Party chairman for Richmond County. "Some people were telling me they'd rather stick with the known than the unknown. They felt that they didn't know Lee that well because they had never seen him debate."

While he openly wooed Republican votes, Barrow also managed to maintain support among Democrats. He hasn't always had an easy relationship in his own party. Barrow outraged many Democrats in the district in 2009 when he voted against Obama's Affordable Care Act. This year, the congressman refused to say outright if he would vote for Obama — though he made it clear he didn't support Romney.

Lowell Greenbaum, chairman of the Richmond County Democratic Party, said he's learned to accept that Barrow's political survival requires "playing Republican in certain places and playing Democrat in others." He cited Barrow's pro-gun ad, which showed him brandishing a revolver and a rifle, as one example.

"He told me before he won that it was extraordinarily popular with the voters and he got a lot of compliments on that," Greenbaum said. "Some of us liberal Democrats ducked when we saw that ad."

Unofficial returns showed Barrow carried just nine of the 19 counties in his district. But he dominated Augusta and surrounding Richmond County, now the district's population center and its Democratic base, where Barrow received a whopping 72 percent of the vote.

Both Allen and McLeod said they may make another attempt at Barrow's seat in two years. Allen is betting the congressman will be more vulnerable in the 2014 midterm elections, but he's not predicting an easy race.

"We've got to have a candidate that can debate, that can do grassroots, that can raise money and articulate a point of view on the issues," Allen said. "If you're going to beat John Barrow, you'd better be good at everything."