I'm still trying to puzzle out what implications there may be for November from this unprecedented explosion in Democratic primary turnout now. While I still think that nobody knows what it means right now, we can still look at the evidence we do have and see what that can tell us.
First things first, are we seeing a surge in Republicans crossing over to influence the Democratic outcome for some nefarious purpose? I don't doubt that there's some mischief going on out there. The following is an email forwarded to me from someone who got it from a Hillary Clinton supporter:
Attention All Texas Republicans and Independents!!
On March 4th, Texas Republicans and Independents will have an opportunity to end Hillary Clinton's (and Bill's) presidential ambitions once and for all!
Since Texas has on open primary, Republicans and Independents should sign in at their polling place and request a Democratic ballot. They should then vote for Barack Obama. Even James Carville admits that if Hillary loses Texas, "she's done!" Republicans can help make this a reality!!! Just think, no more Clintons in the White House!
Voting Democratic this one time will have NO effect on your ability to vote in the next Republican primary or obviously on your vote in November. Since John McCain has the Republican nomination locked up, voting for McCain or Huckabee at this point will have no effect on the outcome on the Republican side.
After you vote during early voting or on March 4th, you ARE NOT done! Report back to your regular polling place at 7PM on March 4th to sign the Barack Obama list for caucus delegates. In a little known Texas voting quirk, 67 delegates to the Democratic convention will be seated because of these caucuses. This is a full one-third of the total number of Texas delegates. For Hillary to lose, she has to lose the primary votes AND the caucus votes.
I urge you to vote against Hillary Clinton by voting for Barack Obama. Please forward this e-mail to all your Texas Republican and Independent friends so that we can help ensure the Clinton's defeat on March 4th!!!
The good news is that there is a simple way to tell just how many triple Rs (who you figure would be the troublemakers) are voting in the Dem primary. The voting history, including primary participation, of every voter is publicly accessible. I don't have my hands on that data right now, but I will get it. As things stand now, I've not heard of any noticeable level of strong Rs voting. But I'll keep an eye on it.
I think it's safe to assume that what we have for the most part is people with little to no previous Democratic primary history heading to the polls. Again, this is something we can know for sure, and it's something I plan to follow up on to see what percentage these folks comprise. But there will be another number to look out for once all the data is in, and that will be the number of undervotes in the downballot races. To my way of thinking, whatever your past tendencies were, and whatever the reason you're showing up now, if you're sticking around to vote in the dozen or so contested primaries after the Presidential one, I'd feel pretty confident that you're likely to come back and vote for some more Democrats in November. If, on the other hand, you only cared to pick a President and you hit the Cast Ballot button once you had done that, then I'm thinking you may or may not return in the fall, and if you do it will probably be to cast that lone vote again. It's just a question of how many people there are that are doing this.
For comparison purposes, here's what the 2004 primary, in which I think it's safe to say anyone voting was a Real True Democrat, looked like for Harris County. For State Rep Races, the undervote was mostly in the 10-20% range, with the hotly contested Alma Allen-Ron Wilson matchup having almost 97% participation. Once you got into the entirely uncontested countywide races, it was more like 30-35% dropoff. This year, we have more contested races on the one hand, and more new voters on the other. Again, I have no idea how this will play out. But it's what I'll be watching to see if I can learn anything about what we'll see in eight months' time. Stay tuned.
UPDATE: Greg has more.Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 24, 2008 to Election 2008