Turnout figures could spell trouble for GOP

People who take the time to read beyond the top-line numbers in Tuesday's election will find a few surprises, several of which suggest the Republican Party will have to gain traction quickly if it hopes to hold back the tide in November. There's even a hint that the GOP may not be able to take Jackson County for granted any more.

Barack Obama piled up a convincing 17-percentage-point win over Hillary Clinton in Oregon's Democratic presidential primary and added to that locally, besting her by 20 percent in Jackson County.

Those results were somewhat anticipated, although the local numbers were a bit surprising considering that the national media suggested Clinton would do well in the state's rural areas, including Southern Oregon. But the numbers beyond the winner-loser totals were the most interesting.

In Tuesday's primary in Jackson County, Obama drew about 500 more votes than Republican nominee John McCain. Combined, Obama and Clinton drew about 11,000 more votes here than McCain (Ron Paul received about 3,100 GOP votes). About 28,000 Democrats voted in the county, compared with 21,000 Republicans. Statewide, the Democratic turnout was nearly 612,000 voters, almost 70 percent, compared with just over 357,000 Republicans, about 28 percent.

No one should read too much into those numbers, because it was clear this primary was a high-interest affair for Democrats but much less so for Republicans. McCain had already wrapped up the nomination even as Obama and Clinton were visiting every corner of the state in search of votes. There were also many more hot Democratic primary battles, including races for the U.S. Senate and Oregon secretary of state.

But Democrats were clearly energized for the primary and Republicans clearly were not. If that combination of energy and lethargy carries over to November, it could be ugly for the GOP.

There were a few other notable results Tuesday night, among them:

  • Kevin "Try, Try Again" Mannix lost again, this time in the GOP primary for the 5th District congressional seat. Mannix also probably took down the winner with him, by accusing businessman Mike Erickson of paying for a woman's abortion.
  • John Kroger easily defeated longtime legislator Greg Macpherson in the race for state attorney general. Macpherson launched some nasty negative ads, which may have backfired on him, and also was targeted by the unions for his work in changing the state's public employee retirement system.
  • The media, Mail Tribune included, missed the boat on Measure 53, which would change the state's forfeiture law. It was billed as a common-sense housekeeping measure, but at last count 49.8 percent of the state wasn't buying it. Nobody in the media had any inkling that level of opposition existed.

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