I see that Royal Masset seems to have found a balm for his anxiety about the huge disparity in turnout between the Democrats and the Republicans. He's noted the 700,000 vote dropoff from the Presidential primary to the Senate primary and concluded:
At least 500,000 Republicans voted in the 2008 Texas Democrat Primary.
The proof of this is simple and conclusive. In the Democrat Primary (Democrat Primary numbers cited here are with 16 precincts not yet counted. Republican numbers are 100% complete.) 2,856,813 votes were cast in the Presidential race. For the Democrat U. S. Senate race, which was heavily contested by 4 candidates, only 2,163,477 votes were cast. 693,336 fewer votes were cast in the US Senate race than in the Presidential race. A decrease of this magnitude is unprecedented. The only explanation that makes sense to me is that at least 500,000 of that 693,336 vote decrease was caused by Republicans voting in the Democrat primary for the sole purpose of influencing the outcome of the Democrat race to nominate a president.
In the Republican Primary 1,380,907 votes were cast for President. For US Senate, which unlike the Democrat Senate race has no credible competition, 1,216,732 votes were cast, mostly for John Cornyn. This is a much smaller drop off than the Democrats had.
There is normally a 7-10% drop off between the Presidential and US Senate races on a primary ballot. Some voters just don't like any of the candidates. But the overwhelming majority of voters vote in most races. They like to participate and make their ballot count. In the 2000 Texas Republican Primary, 1,126,753 votes were cast for President (mostly for Governor Bush.) Yet an uncontested Senator Hutchison, despite then not being a favorite of the pro-life wing of the party, received 955,033 votes, almost as many as the 986,416 received by Bush.
Put simply, the Presidential campaigns took up all the oxygen. The AP reported on Monday how the rest of the candidates were struggling to get attention. I guarantee, you ask any Democratic consultant or activist for one of those candidates, they'll go on a rant about this. Rick Noriega was the highest profile person running statewide, but he only had so much money, and he was running against nobodies and do-nothings, meaning there was little earned media to be had outside the latest flap over 3 AM phone calls and other trivia. I don't see it as the least bit surprising that the dropoff would be unprecedentedly high in this situation.
Another way of expressing this: Had we gotten the Mikal Watts/Rick Noriega matchup were were originally promised, I guarantee you we wouldn't be having this conversation right now.
But let's check some empirical data, since Masset points to a 43% undervote in heavily Republican Denton County. Here's a chart examining the Senate vote as a percentage of the Presidential for all counties with at least 100,000 registered voters (all data courtesy of the SOS):
County Senate Pct
EL PASO 80.91
FORT BEND 77.59
If Texas' Democratic turnout blockbuster were unusual on its own, that might be suggestive of shenanigans. But this primary has led to record-setting Democratic performances all over the country, including such strongholds as Alabama and Utah. And if you include caucus states, Idaho, too. Again, given the extreme amount of attention given to the Texas primary, why is this so hard to comprehend?
Finally, I'll note again that the judicial races in Harris County had only slightly higher dropoffs from the Presidential race compared to 2004, when pretty much everyone participating was hardcore. That still gave them all vote totals that swamped their Republican counterparts, and it suggests to me that there were both a lot of new voters, some of whom only knew or cared about the one race, and a lot of others who really were invested in the whole ticket. Which is what we seem to be seeing elsewhere in the state as well.
I see Dr. Murray is discussing this as well.
[Sen. Hillary] Clinton ended up with a victory of just less than 100,000 votes in the Lone Star State. We heard tales Wednesday of many Republicans being asked to vote for Clinton in the primary. Those voters not only secured a win for Clinton, but may have done themselves a disservice in the runoff.
"Here we had about 400,000 Democratic primary voters, I think about 60,000-80,000 were normally Republican voters, possibly as many as 100,000," said KTRK Political Consultant and blogger, Dr. Richard Murray.
Dr. Richard Murray says surveys taken in the days before the primary indicated Senator Barack Obama would be the one to win votes from self-described independents and Republicans 58% to 39%.
"Something turned the vote from Obama in the early voting to Clinton in the late voting and I think Rush Limbaugh had something to do with that switch," Dr. Murray said.
Look, I'm not saying there weren't any Republican infiltrators. I know, logically and anecdotally, that there were. I'm just saying that I can think of other explanations for the downballot dropoff level besides the one Masset has come up with, and I think the one I've presented here is far more likely.
UPDATE: This Chron story, which says rural Texas won the day for Hillary Clinton, includes the following sidebar:
Some Republicans had been urged by radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh to vote in the Democratic primary for Hillary Rodham Clinton to keep the race alive. But there was not evidence of that occurring on a large scale. Network exit polls showed about 9 percent of the Democratic primary turnout was self-identified Republicans, who cast 52 percent of their ballots for Obama.
Brazoria = 14,632, Clinton, 14,192 Obama
Collin = 31,994 Clinton, 40,000 Obama
Denton = 24,045 Clinton, 30,374 Obama
Fort Bend = 25,670 Clinton, 43,893 Obama
Montgomery = 17,277 Clinton, 13,429 Obama
Williamson = 21,289 Clinton, 27,906 Obama
Brazoria (which is as rural as it is suburban) and Montgomery both went to Clinton, each with a spike on Election Day. The others, not so much, and E-Day totals are not very different from early voting. Make of that what you will.
UPDATE: Dave Weigel and Todd Beeton weigh in. And remember when stories before last week were about how some Republicans were voting in the Dem primary so they'd be sure to get a chance to vote against Hillary Clinton, since they figured she wouldn't be on the ballot in November? Boy, those were the days.Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 06, 2008 to Election 2008