12/5/2012 6:00:00 AM PERRY/Obama up in Miss., turnout down
By BRIAN PERRY
President Barack Obama increased his totals in Mississippi by a little more than 8,200 votes in Mississippi this year over four years ago and his 2012 challenger got nearly 14,000 fewer votes than his 2008 challenger.
Tempered by a 12 percent increase in third party voting, Obama increased his percentage of Mississippi votes from 43 percent to 43.8 percent. The Democrat incumbent still lost the state by nearly 150,000 votes, but he added two counties to his win column picking up both Benton and Warren counties over Mitt Romney (John McCain carried both in 2008). Obama carried 31 counties to Romney's 51 counties. Also, Obama led McCain by six votes in Oktibbeha County in 2008 but posted a 334 vote lead over Romney there this year. Over all voter turnout in the presidential election was down by more than 4,200 votes from four years previous.
With a lower turnout and an increase in voter eligible population (VEP) of 2,285, Mississippi's VEP turnout dropped from 59.97 percent in 2008 to 59.71 percent this year. While not the record set four years ago, turnout still exceeded recent presidential election in the state. Between 1980 and 1992, VEP turnout in Mississippi fluctuated between 52 and 53 percent. It plummeted to 45.9 percent in 1996 and increased to 49.1 percent in 2000 and 55.7 percent in 2004.
Voter turnout dropped nationwide from 2008, but according to research co-authored by Roberto Gallardo, Assistant Extension Professor at the Southern Rural Development Center at Mississippi State University, rural voter turnout in rural areas declined twice the rate of the rest of the nation - mainly among rural Democrats. In a story for the Daily Yonder, Gallardo and co-author Bill Bishop wrote, "Turnout in small cities declined 13.7 percent, dropping from 61.1 percent to 52.7 percent. And turnout in rural counties fell from 67.2 percent in 2008 to 54.9 percent in 2012. That is a whopping 18.3 percent decline, double the national rate. Rural residents still voted more than those in the cities, but the decline is remarkable. And, as the county groups grow less urban, the turnout decline grows larger." It seems in the rush to examine which voters the national parties need to court, both have neglected rural voters.
In Mississippi, Republicans won as expected. Romney carried the state with 55.3 percent of the vote; U.S. Senator Roger Wicker walked back into office for his first full term after winning a special election in 2008; all four incumbent congressmen were reelected - three of those Republican; and all three GOP endorsed candidates for Mississippi Supreme Court won. Republicans held seats in a special state Senate and special state House election; won a special election in Lincoln County with their first Republican circuit clerk; and over the past year added ten elected officials to their ranks who were formerly Democrats or independent.
Nationally, Republicans obviously lost the presidency, failed to retake the U.S. Senate and lost seats in the U.S. House (although they retained a majority). One bright spot for the GOP on the national map is an increased majority of governorships. No Republican gubernatorial incumbent has lost since the Inauguration of Barack Obama. During that time Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker overcame a recall election - the first governor to accomplish that - and the GOP has increased their numbers to 30 nationwide, the highest number held by either party in 12 years.
Obama's 2012 popular vote of 64.9 million fell short of the all time record he set in 2008 of 69.5 million votes, but still topped all other candidates in history, followed by George W. Bush's 62 million votes in 2004, Romney's 60.4 million votes this year; McCain's 59.9 million in 2008; and John Kerry's 59 million votes in 2004. Ronald Reagan's 54.4 million votes in 1984 held the all time record until 2004.
Obama's 365 Electoral Votes in 2008 placed him behind Bill Clinton, Woodrow Wilson, Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt (four times), Dwight Eisenhower (twice), Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan (twice) whose 1984 campaign holds the electoral record at 525. Obama's 332 Electoral Votes this year also places him behind Theodore Roosevelt.
Nationally, Democrats tout their win as a testament of a superior campaign focused on voter turnout, enhanced utilization of social media and street level get-out-the-vote. Republicans worked to get likely voters to the polls; Democrats did, too, but also beat Republicans in motivating unlikely voters to turn out for their candidate. Republicans should face the challenge of matching and besting Democrats in campaigning; but measure their grief in knowing that a superior campaign can get the win, but that does not demonstrate a message mandate. Republicans must expand their base and increase turnout, but both can be done without compromising their principles. Both parties left voters at home this year.
Brian Perry is a partner with Capstone Public Affairs, LLC and a columnist for the Madison County Journal. Reach him at email@example.com and @CapstonePerry on Twitter.