We start today's look at turnout with a Republican talking point, which I'm sure we'll hear again in the future.
The excitement of their contest has driven up Democratic primary early voting to dramatic levels. But GOP spokesman Hans Klingler said he expects things to be Republican as usual in the November election.
"In the end, the important vote is obviously going to be cast in November. It is there that, empirically and historically, Democrats in Texas have a tough time turning their people back out to the polls and sustaining that level of excitement post-primary," Klingler said.
Having had my fun with Hans, I will readily admit that all this excitement is going to come to an end, and the candidates (whether both are still actively campaigning or not) will head off elsewhere to the next battles. It's very much an open question how much infrastructure they will leave, how much resources they will invest here later on, and what if any data they will share with the state and local party organizations (most likely, not much). The record turnout will help a lot with future voter identification, but what that means is a lot of raw data for each individual campaign to sort through. Trying to figure out how many of these new voters will come back in the fall (my guess is most of them) and how many of them will be receptive to voting Democratic downballot will keep many a consultant and campaign manager awake nights.
There's plenty of good that has come out of this primary experience. People are excited about the Democratic candidates. Democrats have gotten a ton of positive attention in the media. Some number of these new voters will come back no matter what we do, others will come back with fairly minimal levels of persuasion. More people will be involved in organizing and campaigning. And on and on. There is a risk that some people will feel a letdown, or will not come back because their candidate lost, or will focus on the Presidential race to the exclusion of downballot races, but let's be clear that Democrats are in a far better position now than they've been in a long time. I'll take my chances on the downside.
Whatever else the Presidential candidates plan to do or maybe do here or not later on, here's one thing they can and should do: Spend some money on TV ads.
Obama and Clinton have spent more money on Texas television advertising in the past three weeks than all the past four Democratic presidential nominees spent on their entire Texas campaigns combined.
One positive thing I've heard about that has already resulted from the early voting madness is a shift in perceptions among donors towards the statewide campaigns. The belief that we really can win is trickling down. If the primary turnout for Obama and Clinton makes it a little bit easier for Rick Noriega, Dale Henry/Art Hall, and the judicial candidates to raise money, that will go a long way.
On to the numbers:
More than half a million people cast Democratic primary ballots in the first eight days of early voting this year -- setting a pace for the party to have more than a million presidential primary votes in the state for the first time since Bill Clinton tangled with Paul Tsongas in the 1992 elections.
Texas Secretary of State Phil Wilson on Wednesday predicted 3.3 million people will vote, breaking the 1988 record of 2.7 million who turned out when both parties had presidential nomination battles in Texas.
In Harris County, yesterday was the busiest day yet, with another 18,000 Democratic votes cast, for a total of over 114,000 so far. I think we'll easily surpass 150,000 by close of business Friday, and won't be surprised if we get as many as 25,000 votes cast on Friday itself. Oh, and it pleases me to note that two more Republicans have voted at the Julia C. Hester House in HD142, thus bringing that total up to three. Woo hoo!
Finally, on the subject of Republicans voting in the Democratic primary:
And the people Obama and Clinton are drawing to the polls are new or only occasional voters, according to a preliminary survey of early vote results from Harris and Dallas counties being done by the Texas Democratic Party.
Through last Saturday, half of those casting ballots had not voted in any of the past three party primaries; 20 percent are not regular general election voters; and about 2 percent are Republican crossover voters, said party consultant Ed Martin.