Support for Obama survives turnout dip
CAPITAL REGION Barack Obama appears to have carried a greater percentage of votes in New York on Election Day 2012 than any presidential candidate since Lyndon Johnson.
Preliminary results suggest the president roughly equalled the 62.8 percent of the vote he secured in 2008, the second highest percentage achieved by a Democratic candidate in the Empire State. Johnson, who ran against ultra-conservative Barry Goldwater in 1964, achieved 68.6 percent of the vote during his landslide victory the year after President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.
In the Obama-Romney race, “The presidential election in New York was never in any doubt,” Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg said Tuesday. “That was clear very early on.”
New York and the Capital Region didn’t buck many voting trends. Urban areas came out strongly for Obama, while rural counties supported Republican challenger Mitt Romney.
Turnout throughout Capital Region counties appeared to be down compared to 2008, marking a trend that is being reported nationally. Substantially fewer voters appear to have turned out at the polls this year, perhaps reflecting a voter malaise with a race that simply didn’t seem as exciting from a New York voter’s perspective.
“We’re not a swing state, so turnout for the most part is lower,” said Zoe Oxley, a political science professor at Union College in Schenectady. “But there was a whole lot less enthusiasm with this contest than 2008.”
Bob Turner, an associate professor of government at Skidmore College, noticed this drop in enthusiasm among students on the Saratoga Springs campus. He recalled a jubilant celebration among students in 2008, but witnessed a very muted reaction to the race on Tuesday.
“It didn’t have the same passionate and historic component that it did in 2008,” he said.
Though absentee and affidavit ballots still need to be counted, initial results suggest turnout in the state was several percentage points lower than when Obama carried it in 2008.
In Capital Region counties, turnout seemed to hover between 70 percent and 73 percent of registered voters. In Saratoga County, about 73 percent of registered voters turned out, which was 3 percent dip from 2008 and a 5 percent drop from 2004, Board of Elections Commissioner Bill Frucci said.
Schenectady County closely mirrored this trend. Board of Elections Commissioner Brian Quail said the county will likely see a turnout of about 71 percent of registered voters, about a 4 percent decline from the total in 2008.
“Generally, there’s a downward slide in voter participation in all of the elections,” he said.
Those who did vote generally stuck to trends New York displayed in other elections. Once again, the state that hasn’t gone to a Republican since Ronald Reagan won it in 1984 continues to be a safe haven for Democratic presidential candidates.
“There are pockets still where conservative voters have a strong say in things,” said Bob Bellafiore, a former GOP operative and one-time spokesman for Republican Gov. George Pataki. “But overall as a state, I think New York is bluer than it’s ever been.”
In Albany County, where Democrats have a huge enrollment advantage over Republicans, Obama carried 64.2 percent of the vote over Romney’s 33.4 percent. Obama also landed a large victory in Schenectady County, where he landed 56.4 percent of the vote, compared to Romney’s 41.2 percent.
Obama’s margin of victory narrowed substantially to the north in Saratoga County, where he won by a relatively narrow margin of 2,047 votes in an election where more than 97,000 cast ballots. His margin of victory in the county was similarly narrow in 2008, when he topped Republican John McCain by only 3,790 during an election when more than 111,000 residents voted.
Romeny’s strength came in the Capital Region’s outlying counties, where he generally held a commanding lead. In Schoharie County, the former Massachusetts governor scored 57.3 percent of the vote to top the president’s 40.7 percent.
Romney won both Fulton County and Montgomery County, following trends that closely mirrored the presidential race of 2008. Both counties and Schoharie County went solidly for McCain four years ago.
Third party candidates garnered mere fractions of a percentage point in most Capital Region counties. Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson — the Libertarian candidate — secured slightly more than one percent of the vote in Albany, Saratoga and Rensselaer counties, making him the most successful third party candidate in the Capital Region vote-wise.