Republican turnout fell 17 percent in Ohio

Published 11:30 am Thursday, November 6, 2008

It may look bleak for Republicans now. But there’s hope next time.

At least that’s the opinion of Dr. Kenneth Heineman, the Ohio University professor who has offered continuing commentary on this year’s campaign.

“What I saw from Ohio is that there is a good chance for 2012,” Heineman said. “A lot of Republicans staying home was not entirely a criticism of Bush, but a rejection of McCain and the bailout. Simply, Ohio Republicans did not like McCain and not seeing any firm principles (from him), respecting his military service but not as a person.”

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Statewide the Republican turnout fell 17 percent from 2004 while the Democratic turnout fell six percent. There were almost a half-million fewer Republicans voting this year over the last presidential election, Heineman said.

On the other side, Barack Obama underperformed Sen. John Kerry, who ran for president in 2004, statewide and in Franklin County.

“In Ohio, the massive registration surge of voting was nothing but smoke and mirrors,” he said. “I wasn’t surprised nationally. It was a horrible environment for any Republican with the financial meltdown.”

There were also long and short-term problems with the McCain candidacy, Heineman said. In part, there has always been no love lost between McCain and the fundamentalistic conservative aspect of the Republican party. This was intensified by what they perceive as his mishandling of the financial crisis.

“McCain has always been perceived by Republicans as someone with great personal honor and also a jerk,” Heineman said.

For Dr. Michael McTeague, the other OU professor who has offered his viewpoints this election season, there was little surprise in the overall turnout. He cited the massive amount of money spent on television and other last minute campaign ads.

The campaign revolved around three issues, he said. Could this country elect someone of color; someone who is a female; and someone older?

“We won’t have to have the argument next time,” McTeague said. “There were probably more negatives about age than race. We didn’t make fun of Obama as a person of color.”

While McCain was often the focus of jokes because of his age, the race issue was not used for humor.

“Race was too flammable an issue,” McTeague said.

Now with a new Democratic president and a Democratic Congress, what does the future hold?

“There will be too high an expectation for Obama. He can’t make all the changes, if he wanted to,” McTeague said. “He will depend on Congress and if they don’t (come through) there will be stagnation. It won’t be his fault. He can only propose ideas. He can’t make them do it.

“Hopefully, there will be a move toward the middle,” he said. “If he governs from the left, there won’t be joint bipartisan legislation.”