GREG BLUESTEIN,Associated Press
ATLANTA (AP) - Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is thanking voters in Georgia for helping him win his former state and says he's the best candidate to debate President Barack Obama in the fall.
Preliminary election results show Gingrich with 49 percent of the vote with 41 percent of precincts reporting. Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum were battling for second place with 22 percent each.
Gingrich says he's the "one candidate who has the ability to debate Barack Obama decisively."
Gingrich, who represented Georgia in Congress for 20 years, told the crowd at his party in metro Atlanta Tuesday night that he's already looking ahead to contests in Alabama, Kansas and Mississippi later this month.
The only other Southern state holding a primary on Tuesday was Tennessee, which was won by Santorum.