Mike Huckabee was the only candidate for the GOP presidential nomination to visit Middle Georgia, and it appears to have paid off.
Huckabee either won or was leading in most area counties Tuesday night, while the race statewide remained locked in a tight three-way battle.
"We are thrilled," said Huckabee supporter Michael Lane at a local victory party. "They have been trying to bury Mike since this started."
Lane and others said Huckabee's visit to the midstate probably made a difference in winning over voters.
"I think it made a huge difference," said Lane, who has actively campaigned for Huckabee and met him at the rally. "I think if anybody was undecided and watched that man speak, you knew he was for real."
Lane also said the presence of Chuck Norris probably drew some younger voters to Huckabee.
Huckabee won a tight three-way race in heavily Republican Houston County, despite the strong military population that might have been expected to lean toward McCain, a former POW. Huckabee won in Houston with 34 percent, followed by McCain with 32 percent and Mitt Romney with 28 percent.
Houston County also had a strong turnout, of 44 percent. The 2004 presidential primary that also had the state flag referendum on the ballot drew only 18 percent of registered voters. With 42 of 43 precincts in Bibb County counted, Huckabee had 35 percent, to 30 percent by McCain and Romney.
Laurens County went strongly for Huckabee. With 19 of 20 precincts in, 2,447 voters favored the former Arkansas governor, followed by 1,173 for McCain and Romney with 780.
Dr. O.B. Johnson, the chairman of the Laurens County Republican Party, said he was expecting McCain to take the county after the nationwide frontrunner won a straw poll at a recent Rotary Club meeting.
"I'm surprised Huckabee is doing as well as he is," Johnson said.
Houston County GOP chairman Aaron Hufstetler said he was surprised by the local results. He was expecting Houston Countians to go for Romney, followed by Huckabee and then McCain.
Although much was still left to be decided in Super Tuesday nationwide when he spoke, Hufstetler said the results he was seeing indicated that the Republican nomination was not yet decided.
"It looks like it's going to go down to the wire," he said. "All three of them might go to the national convention."
And despite some conservatives objecting strongly to McCain, and in many cases Huckabee, Hufstetler said he would have no problem supporting any of them as the nominee.
"My feeling is that any of the Republicans would be better than the other two," he said.
Darkhorse GOP candidate Ron Paul probably had more roadside signs in his favor than votes. Paul, who campaigned on ending the Iraq war, the IRS, and the income tax, had less than five percent of the votes in most counties.
There were some Middle Georgia counties that appeared to not favor Huckabee so much. In Baldwin County McCain held a narrow lead with one precinct left to be decided.