The Democrats’ Voter-Turnout Problem

Beginning early this year, a pattern has been developing in which Democratic voter turnout in special elections has been below expectations. The phenomenon showed up in a Virginia state legislative seat captured by Republicans as well as the Florida U.S. House election this month, among others.

This week, Republican Mike Morrell won a special election for a state senate race near Riverside, Calif. His victory wasn’t remarkable, since the seat leans Republican. What was stunning was that he won 63 percent of the vote and another Republican took 6 percent. The left-wing website Daily Kos expressed worry:

That California result is truly abysmal. The two Republicans combined for 69 percent, the two Democrats just 25 percent. (A Libertarian took 7 percent.) In 2012, this district went for Mitt Romney by just a 52–46 margin. If you look only at the two-party share of the vote, that’s a 6-point edge for Romney but a 46-point GOP advantage on Tuesday night. That’s a 40-point dropoff for Democrats! Candidate quality has something to do with it—Morrell is an assemblyman, and the Democrats put forth Some Dudes—but still. Yeesh.

A majority of Americans (57 percent in a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll) believe the country is still in recession. Obamacare continues to be plagued with problems and unpopularity. It shouldn’t be a surprise that Democrats are having trouble getting their people to the polls. It’s just more evidence that a tidal wave is indeed building for this year’s midterms and it’s Democrats who have their candidates stuck on the beach unable to avoid it.

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