Novembers election results and voter turnout show the challenges ahead for the Republican Party.
The poorest voter turnout in 16 years in Jefferson County brought only marginal wins for GOP candidates, who once won decisive victories in the county and across Northern New York. Just 64 percent of the county electorate went to the polls this year, the smallest turnout since 1996. The 36,196 voters were down slightly from 2008, while more than 39,000 voters cast ballots in 2004 and 36,859 in 2000.
On the congressional level this year, Republican candidate Mathew A. Doheny carried the county by just 1,060 votes, a slim 3 percent lead over incumbent Democratic Rep. William L. Owens, who won his third election in what is now the 21st Congressional District. Mr. Doheny had an official total of 17,815 to 16,755 for Mr. Owens.
In the presidential race, GOP challenger Mitt Romney outpolled President Obama in Jefferson County. However, Mr. Romneys margin of victory, based on election night tallies, was smaller than that of GOP presidential candidate John McCain, who also carried Jefferson County in 2008.
In a region dominated by Republicans, the turnout indicates that the party is failing to get out the vote as well as losing the allegiance of its members. It mirrors what has been happening on the national scene with losing popular support as the GOP moves away from the center with one-issue candidates and sometimes extremists candidates as seen in the high-profile GOP gaffes in U.S. Senate races in Missouri and Indiana.
The Republican Party needs candidates who will resonate with the voters by moving away from the focus on social values and focus on explaining the connection between prosperity and taxes.