February 23, 2008
Where are the Republicans?

I know I've harped quite a bit on the vast disparity between Democratic and Republican turnout so far in this primary, but that's because every way I look at the data, it's just stunning in its scope. Every way I slice it, it's a rout for the Democrats.

To illustrate this in another fashion, consider the five State Rep districts in which there is a competitive primary on the GOP side. Those districts are as follows: HDs 127, 129, 130, 134, and 144. Here's how things look after three days of early voting:

Dist Dem GOP Total Dem % Moody %
127 1292 959 2251 57.4 33.4
129 1193 752 1945 61.3 39.2
130 1072 892 1964 54.6 28.8
134 1845 498 2343 78.7 51.7
144 706 398 1104 63.9 44.9

Total 6108 3499 9607 63.6 39.5

"Moody %" refers to the percentage of the vote that Bill Moody, the top statewide Democratic performer, got in that district in 2006; the total for Moody is his percentage of the vote in these five districts. Looking at those numbers, it's kind of hard to overstate the dominance on the Democratic side. I mean, HD130 is one of the most Republican districts in the state. No Democrat is running for State Rep there. The GOP primary fight is between Corbin Van Arsdale and Dan Patrick's proxy Allen Fletcher, which is the most high-profile of the State Rep primaries here. And yet there have been more Democratic votes cast there than Republican votes. It borders on the bizarre.

Now maybe there's some crossover Republican votes going on. I don't have the capacity to check and see what kind of primary history these folks have. But I'm a little skeptical of the notion that there's more than a token amount of this happening. Assuming that there's a strategic reason for Republicans there to organize and vote for one of the Democratic Presidential candidates (presumably Hillary Clinton), the impact they'd have is miniscule. HD130 is in SD07, which will only allocate three delegates. The most you could reasonably hope for is to flip from 2-1 Obama to 2-1 Clinton. I don't know about you, but I'd consider that a pretty tiny payoff for giving up my voice in the Van Arsdale/Patrick, Emmett/Bacarisse, and District Attorney fights. The only explanation that makes sense to me is that there's a sizeable number of previously inactive Democrats and Republican-leaning independents in that Democratic majority. I'm open to other suggestions if you've got them.

HD134 is another interesting one. One GOP hopeful for that nomination is plastic surgeon/friend of Marvin Zindler Joe Agris, who on paper looks like the ideal challenger to first-term Rep. Ellen Cohen. But he's raised no money, has no web page that I can find via Google, and the only signs I've seen related to that campaign belong to his opponent, Carlos "Not Obama" Obando. Agris, I'm told, was recruited to keep Obando, who is gay, from being the GOP nominee in HD134. At the rate things are going, however, that plan may not work. Oh, and I should note that the two precincts that went strongly against Cohen in 2006, precincts 178 (Afton Oaks) and 227 (River Oaks), both of which voted 2-1 for Martha Wong, have cast a total of 105 votes. Seventy-nine of them were for Democrats. You do the math.

The question is whether any of this will correlate to November results. And the answer is that I don't know. Nobody knows - we're in completely uncharted territory. I hope there's a plan to contact all the new primary voters and give them thanks and encouragement, in hope of retaining the genuine converts for the fall. Beyond that, this is going to make ID'ing voters for mailings a lot more complicated going forward. But that's what you call a good problem to have.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 23, 2008 to Election 2008

It seems pretty simple to me: McCain has all but wrapped up the R nomination, so no compelling reason at the top of the ticket for Rs to turn out; the Ds, on the other hand, have a very dynamic competition, and one candidate in particular who has attracted many newcomers to vote in the primary. Thus, the lopsided turnout, even in 'traditionally' R districts, on the D side.

As for the impact on the general, I don't think it'll make much of a difference. In this Post article a supporter says that Obama is "all things to all men." Echos of Perot's initial appeal in '92. As Obama's positions get better known, I think his support in the center will start to fade.

Posted by: Joe White on February 23, 2008 12:40 PM

There's no logic in comparing Senator Obama to Mr. Perot. Perot was a third-party, single-issue (deficit reduction) candidate running against a terribly unpopular incumbent who peaked in 1992 just as people were beginning to believe the incumbent had ruined the economy.

Obama (like Senator Clinton) is a mainstream Democrat with positions on the economy, the war, and healthcare that are strongly supported by a majority of the general population, according to public opinion surveys.

Any comparison of 2008 to 1992, at this point, would cast John McCain in the losing role of President George H.W. Bush, for similar reasons. Like the first Bush (and the second), Senator McCain is out of touch with the general population on the issues of the day.

It's hard to imagine that Senator Obama's campaign will maintain the current level of interest and enthusiasm, but I hope it can.

We early-voted on West Gray at about 2 this afternoon, and I have never seen it so crowded there. At least 150 people were in line ahead of us.

It was a happy crowd, and from the level of excitement looked like a group that was there to vote for Obama.

We saw no signs of a McCain supporter, but noticed a few Huckabee signs and stickers.

Posted by: Jeff N. on February 23, 2008 4:22 PM

Anecdotally, my father, who probably changed over to the Republican side with John Connally, cross-voted. We were discussing the debate and he said "if I had your choices, I would vote for Obama".

I told him that he did have my choices and that if he thought the best way to influence the National race was to vote Obama, he should do so.

I got an email response back about two hours later that said "I did it!" I wasn't quite flabbergasted, but I was pretty surprised. It sounded a lot like a vote for him, not a vote against Hillary, too.

I've no idea if it'll stick after the primary and I'm pretty sure it doesn't have a downstream coattail, but it's one fewer Dallas County Republican Primary voter.

Posted by: Michael on February 24, 2008 7:59 AM
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