Based on Franklin County’s election results, about two-thirds of voters were in the red camp. But by night’s end, many were singing the blues.
Caleb Correll, chairman of the Franklin County Democratic Party, said he remained confident throughout the evening that President Obama would roll to victory by capturing key swing states.
“I really wasn’t surprised by the outcome, because I predicted Obama would win the Electoral College and the popular vote, based on looking at the state polls,” Correll said Wednesday. “The state numbers are more reliable than the national polls.”
Obama carried each contested state except North Carolina by aggressively registering first-time voters, political analysts said Wednesday. The president matched his share of the youth vote from 2008, and nearly matched his support from seniors, the election numbers showed. The result was that Obama won 50 percent of the U.S. popular vote, compared to 48 percent for Republican challenger Mitt Romney, and his ability to rack up key swing states helped him collect 303 Electoral College votes — well above the 270 needed to claim the presidency — and nearly 100 ahead of Romney’s 206. Election officials had yet to call the presidential winner in Florida as of Wednesday afternoon.
After leaving the Ottawa election poll where she had worked all day, Cathy McClay, former vice chair of the Franklin County Republican Central Committee, set out for a Republican gathering in Ottawa before continuing on to a victorious Caryn Tyson’s election watch party in Garnett.
While McClay said she was pleased Tyson, R-Parker, had won the state’s Senate District 12 in convincing fashion, her mood grew more somber as swing states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Colorado and eventually Ohio turned a Democrat-shade of blue on the Electoral College map.
“I anticipated it would be a close race, and I was hopeful we would see a change in direction,” an exhausted McClay said Wednesday, still recuperating from a nonstop, 21-hour whirlwind of activity on Election Day. “The polling numbers started to change after Hurricane Sandy [the superstorm that sacked the East Coast last week], and we did not carry the swing states that were important.”
“I think there was a fear factor with Romney, too, with the future of Medicare,” Rugg said. “Medicare has been a godsend to generations. I don’t think people were getting straight answers, and I think when it came down to it they weren’t comfortable voting for a person who they believed might actually take it away.”
Jeff Richards, chairman of the Franklin County Republican Central Committee, said he thought some voters who were in favor of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, often referred to as Obamacare, were energized to go to the polls for fear of losing that health care initiative. Ohio and some other swing states might not have gone Romney’s way because a segment of registered voters didn’t get out and vote, or a legion of eligible voters didn’t get registered, Richards said in retrospect.
“I can’t believe people showed up at the polls yesterday to vote for four more years of what we just had,” Richards said. “So, there had to be some other factors as to why he was re-elected.”
The economy was on the minds of millions of voters who went to the polls Tuesday, according to national exit polls.
But Obama became the first president to be re-elected when the unemployment rate was higher than 7.2 percent since Franklin D. Roosevelt did it in 1936. Unemployment stood at 7.9 percent in October.
Correll said he thought the fact Obama could be elected when the unemployment rate exceeded 7.2 percent showed American voters still blame the nation’s economic downturn on former President George W. Bush.
“I think the fact he won the Electoral [College] and popular vote shows Americans realized he wasn’t going to be able to fix the economy in four years,” Correll said, “and they were willing to give him a few more years to get the country back on track.”
National exit polls seemed to bear out Correll’s point.
About 60 percent of voters surveyed as they left their polling places rated the economy as the top issue, but more said former President Bush bore the responsibility for the failing economy, The Associated Press reported.
McClay wasn’t buying into that line of thinking.
“I’m really disappointed that I think a lot of people voted for Obama because they thought it was the cool and popular thing to do, instead of basing their votes on issues and substance,” McClay said.
The night was a mixed bag for Correll, who lost his bid to claim the state House District 59 seat to Blaine Finch, R-Ottawa. Correll said the night was bittersweet not because he lost to Finch — whom he said would represent Ottawa and Kansas well — but because longtime state lawmaker Bill Feuerborn, D-Garnett, lost his District 5 seat to Kevin Jones, R-Wellsville, as well as Democrats not being able to make any inroads in the U.S. House.
With Republicans maintaining a clear majority in the U.S. House, McClay said she feared the president’s second term would begin with the same gridlock that marked his first term.
Rugg said she’s hopeful some of the divisiveness would end, and the president would compel lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to work together.
On that point, Republican McClay said she could agree with her Democratic counterpart.
“I hope, as a nation, we can resolve our differences and work together to do what’s in the best interest of the country,” McClay said.