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Race over, local parties look ahead

POSTED: November 7, 2012 3:31 p.m.
 

If the rest of the nation had followed Forsyth County and Georgia’s lead, Mitt Romney would have been the nation’s 45th president.

Instead, however, President Barack Obama secured re-election Tuesday night.

Romney, the Republican challenger, carried nearly 81 percent of Forsyth’s vote, or about 65,900 votes, compared to Obama’s 18 percent, or 14,544 votes.

In Georgia, Romney received about 53 percent of the state’s vote.

“I’m very disappointed. Apparently, results don’t seem to matter to a good bit of the country and they’ll elect somebody who’s willing to give out free goodies,” said Ethan Underwood, chairman of the Forsyth County Republican Party.

“Fortunately, we still live in a very conservative state, and Georgia is one of the states that has got a lot of economic development and I think we’re going to be a donor state who’s going to be paying for the rest of the country’s wish list.”

But Sharon Gunter, chairwoman of the Forsyth County Democratic Party, couldn’t have been more thrilled with the results.

“I was just delighted. I think it was an excellent race,” she said. “I thought it was very well run and now it’s time for Congress to say, ‘All right, the people have spoken.’

“The Democrats have some new seats in Congress and I think it’s time they all start working together.”

Underwood said he had high hopes for Romney, but the party still has some work to do.

“We ran a candidate who has excellent experience. He’s from New England. This ought to have been someone who appeals to conservatives and moderate Republicans alike,” Underwood said.

Despite Obama’s weak performance during the first presidential debate, Gunter said the rest of his campaign went well.

“He got away from the old-time politics of all the mud-slinging and I think people respected that and people respected that he was running on his record,” she said.

While powers have not shifted in the Republican House and Democrat-controlled Senate, Gunter said she hopes the parties will start working together.

The presidential outcome was clearly troubling news for Republicans, said Charles Bullock, legislative and Southern politics professor at the University of Georgia. It also, he said, “gives them a view of the future and the future is not very bright for Republicans.”

“They lose the women’s vote by about 11 percentage points and women cast most ballots,” Bullock said. “They lose the Hispanic vote by more than 2-to-1 and Hispanics are a growing share of the electorate. They lose the youth vote and obviously with each election, more and more older voters are not going to be around to vote.

“So the alarm bells should be deafening for the GOP that they are out of step with the changes which seem to be taking place in the American population and American values.”

Statewide, Obama received about 45.4 percent of the vote. In 2008, he received 47 percent. McCain received 52.2 percent of the state in 2008, compared with Romney’s 53.4 percent.

Georgia wasn’t much of a political player in this election. But over time, Bullock expects to see a shift.

“Sometime in the next 20 years or so, Georgia will cease to have a white majority,” he said. “So for the same reasons that Republicans need to be worried about their future nationally, they need to be worried about their future in Georgia … Georgia’s population is becoming increasingly diverse.”

Underwood said the party would be “spending a good bit of time trying to reach out to minorities and trying to get them to embrace [its] philosophy.”

“Most of the Hispanic vote, the Asian vote, they’re socially conservative and they’re fiscally conservative, so I think we’ve got a lot to offer them,” he said. “But we’ve got to spend a lot more time reaching out to them and bringing them into the party.”

In the meantime, however, Obama’s win was far from a mandate, according to Bullock.

“He is the first president since Woodrow Wilson to be re-elected with a smaller share of the Electoral College and the first president since Andrew Jackson to be elected with a smaller percentage of the popular vote,” Bullock said. “So the problem he’s going to have is going to the Republican leadership in the House and saying you need to follow me.

“He has more of a challenge in front of him now than he did four years ago. This really was a no-change election.”

 

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