May 29, 2008
A little perspective, please

Since the release of the Texas Observer poll of new and crossover voters in this year's Democratic primary, a somewhat strange narrative has taken hold. Here's Burka:

The voting pattern-a huge spike in turnout combined with little interest in downballot races-indicates that the presidential race was the main motivating factor for 2 out of 3 Democratic voters. No surprise there. The question is, Can the D's reap the benefit of this huge turnout in the U.S. Senate race and in local races for courthouse positions and for legislative and congressional races? Two-thirds of the primary voters showed little interest in these races. The problem for Democrats is twofold: First, can they raise the money to educate these voters about the downballot races? and, second, can the enthusiasm that new voters exhibited on March 4 be sustained over the eight months between the primary and the general election?

And here's Wayne Slater:

Beatty notes that 25 percent of the primary voters quit after voting for president. One third stopped at the first statewide race, Texas Railroad Commission. And 40 percent of the voters stopped before getting to their local legislative candidate. In March, we reported about this falloff - and its implications. Obama supporters were more likely to vote in the presidential race and then skip the other contests than Clinton supporters, who tended to continue voting down the ballot. More than 80 percent of Democratic voters in the Texas counties where Clinton had her largest victory margins went on to vote in the U.S. Senate race, the leading statewide contest on the ballot after the presidential race. By contrast, only 71 percent of voters in Obama's strongest counties did.

That means if Obama's at the top of the ticket, as it appears will be the case, the Democratic Party will have to convince the Obamamaniacs in November to keep voting down ballot, not just stop with their star.

Okay, so the dropoff in voting from the Presidential primary to the other primaries - which, you may recall, was once cited by Royal Masset as evidence of massive Republican mischief voting - is a problem for the Democrats in November. Seems logical enough. Only one problem: The dropoff rate for 2008 looks remarkably like the dropoff rate for 2004. Observe:

Office Total votes Pct of Pres
2004 President 839,211 100.00
2008 President 2,874,986 100.00

2004 RR Commish 605,675 72.17
2008 RR Commish 1,951,295 67.87

2004 Sup Court 585,927 69.82
2008 Sup Court 1,736,732 60.41
2008 Sup Court 2,025,442 70.45
2008 Sup Court 2,008,917 69.88

2004 CCA 605,789 72.19
2008 CCA 1,719,103 59.80
2008 CCA 1,747,217 60.78

The difference between the first 2008 Supreme Court primary and the other two is that one primary, for Chief Justice, was uncontested; the other two were not. Note that in those two races, the dropoff rate was slightly less than it was in 2004.

Now, none of the 2004 primaries were contested, whereas the 2008 RR Commish race was along with those two Supreme Court races, so perhaps this is a bit unfair. But come on. In 2004, when John Kerry had wrapped up the nomination, only the hardiest of the hardcore came out for the primary, and they quit after the Presidential race at a rate very similar to this year's crowd of mostly newbies. Given that, would someone please tell me what exactly it is that I'm supposed to be worried about this year? Because I'm just not seeing it.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 29, 2008 to Election 2008

Thanks Charles, for the historical perspective.

It remains amazing to me how you so consistently manage to journalize circles around the paid professionals.

Posted by: PDiddie on May 30, 2008 5:11 AM