Polls a Lonely Place in Virginia's Capital

With Romney a shoo-in and big names missing from ballot, would-be Super Tuesday voters stay home.

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RICHMOND, Va.—Although some local meteorologists predicted snow flurries here on Super Tuesday, it wasn't the threat of a freak winter storm that kept voters away from the polls today. Instead, experts—and voters—blame the ballot, which leaves off a surging Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich, and the heavy media coverage that's reported Mitt Romney as a virtual shoo-in victor in Virginia.

[See pictures of Super Tuesday voters heading to the polls.]

Polling places across the Richmond area were nearly empty. One polling place had seen only six voters more than three hours after it opened.

"Good luck trying to find people to talk with," one voter jested while leaving the St. Paul's Catholic Church polling location in Richmond. Election officials weren't much more optimistic, as poll staffers often outnumbered citizens casting their ballots.

Voters who did make it to the polls had different reasons.

"I don't agree with Ron Paul," says Richmond resident and Romney supporter Jack Burtch, 65, adding that he would've voted for Romney even if Virginia had a full ballot including Gingrich and Santorum. "Santorum has just completely taken himself out of consideration in my book with his position on women and family life. It's just unacceptable."

[In Ohio, Rick Santorum's Downward Spin.]

Burtch was one of many Virginians who voted for Barack Obama in 2008, turning the state blue, but after four years, Burtch says he's had enough and is returning the Republican fold. "I'm really disappointed," Burtch says. "I had hoped he would be a successful president, but he has not been a successful president. We need a successful president right now, and Mitt Romney is the best choice."

Despite the fact that Romney is expected to win Virginia by a landslide, some voters are using their vote for Ron Paul in Virginia's primary to send a message. Patrick Horn, 32, isn't even registered as a Republican but cast his vote for Paul to show his support for the Texas congressman. Although Horn concedes that, realistically, Paul doesn't have much of a chance to make it to the general election, he identifies with Paul's style more than Romney's.

"Ron Paul is a very smart man and I think Mitt Romney likes to fly at 35,000 feet and not get his hands dirty," Horn says, adding that if the match-up is between Obama and Romney in November, he'll go for Obama. "The rhetoric that's coming from all the other candidates doesn't much impress me."

mhandley@usnews.com

Twitter: @mmhandley

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