The Campaign Spot

Democrats Just Weren’t That Into Their Primaries Yesterday

There are certain states where I’m not surprised that Democratic turnout is lower than Republican turnout; in Indiana, there was a competitive GOP Senate primary and none on the Democratic side. But even with that in mind, the turnout differences in yesterday’s primaries were pretty stark, compared to the 2006 numbers.

Reid Wilson lays out the comparison:

Just 663K OH voters cast ballots in the competitive primary between LG Lee Fisher (D) and Sec/State Jennifer Brunner (D). That number is lower than the 872K voters who turned out in ‘06, when neither Gov. Ted Strickland (D) nor Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) faced primary opponents.

Only 425K voters turned out to pick a nominee against Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC). The 14.4% turnout was smaller than the 444K voters — or 18% of all registered Dem voters — who turned out in ‘04, when Gov. Mike Easley (D) faced only a gadfly candidate in his bid to be renominated for a second term.

And in IN, just 204K Hoosiers voted for Dem House candidates, far fewer than the 357K who turned out in ‘02 and the 304K who turned out in ‘06.

By contrast, GOP turnout was up almost across the board. 373K people voted in Burr’s uncompetitive primary, nearly 9% higher than the 343K who voted in the equally non-competitive primary in ‘04. Turnout in House races in IN rose 14.6% from ‘06, fueled by the competitive Senate primary, which attracted 550K voters. And 728K voters cast ballots for a GOP Sec/State nominee in Ohio, the highest-ranking statewide election with a primary; in ‘06, just 444K voters cast ballots in that race.

One other thing I would note: Jennifer Brunner, Lee Fisher, Cal Cunningham, Elaine Marshall, the Democrats running for House in Indiana . . . These are not exactly whirling dervishes of raw political charisma. Neither the North Carolina nor the Ohio primaries were clashes of the titans on par with, say, Joe Lieberman against Ned Lamont. Yes, some jabs were thrown, but when the candidates are standard-issue and the policy differences are minor, why should these states’ Democrats turn out?

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