February 27, 2008
Turnout watch: Two numbers to ponder

For today's look at the early vote turnout figures, I'm just going to consider two numbers and what they might have to tell us about what's in store for November. Let's start with this memo from Professor Murray (PDF), who looked at early vote total in the top 15 counties through Sunday, and extrapolated from there.

Using these totals, we can estimate the total primary vote for each party as follows:

(1) These 15 counties represent 60% of the total statewide vote, so we extrapolate that the entire state's early vote total as of Sunday was about 600,000 on the Democratic side and 200,000 in the Republican primary.

(2) Based on past patterns, we can conservatively assume that about 50% of the early vote had been cast by Sunday, which means that final early vote total will be about 1,200,000 in the Democratic Primary and 400,000 in the Republican primary.

(3) And finally, we can conservatively project that the early vote represents about 45% of the total statewide vote, which yields a final Democratic primary vote in 2008 of 2,667,000, and a final Republican vote of 889,000.

That 2,667,000 figure, which is Number #1 for today, would shatter all records for Democratic Party primary turnout, even going as far back as 1972, when everyone voted Democratic. It would represent something like 20% of all currently registered voters in Texas. And if those really are conservative assumptions and projections, it means there's a chance that Democratic Primary turnout could be higher than the 2004 general election vote total for John Kerry of 2.8 million, which is something that Nick Beaudrot had suggested before.

That's mind-blowing stuff, and I think the first thing you have to do with this is to realize that all previous assumptions about the composition of the electorate in Texas are invalid. As has been pointed out, a huge number of the people voting in the Democratic primary have no primary voting history. Some of them likely have no voting history - I'll say again I really want to get my hands on this data once it's available to me. I don't know how many of these people will come back and vote again in November, but if the person they voted for this time is on the ballot again, I like the odds. The job will be getting them to continue on and keep voting for more Democrats.

And the key for that is money. It's going to take a lot of money to identify and communicate with all those new-to-us voters. Will the large donors who sat out the 2006 election on the grounds that Democrats couldn't win statewide (*cough* *cough* trial lawyers *cough* *cough*) get back in the game? Will the DNC send back some of the money it's been notorious for sucking out of here? Will the Presidential candidates themselves take the time and make the effort to campaign in Texas, as that in and of itself would be a huge boost to Democratic prospects overall? Well, one of them says Yes to that.

State legislators supporting Barack Obama took issue with Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday over her statement that Texas isn't likely to figure into the general election for the Democrats.

"I'd love to carry Texas, but it's usually not in the electoral calculation for the Democratic nominee; Florida and Michigan are," she said in a recent videotaped interview with Texas Monthly.

Democratic Reps. Jim Dunnam of Waco, Pete Gallego of Alpine and Garnet Coleman of Houston, all of whom back Obama, said Texas Democrats need a presidential candidate who will try to win Texas and help rejuvenate the state party.

"It harkens back to the 1990s, when Texas Democrats were basically abandoned," Dunnam said.

Democrats lost all statewide offices in 1998. They later lost total control of the Legislature. The party has been trying to rebuild ever since.

The lawmakers said Obama has assured them he would campaign in Texas if he becomes the nominee. They noted that he helped campaign for other candidates in red states in the 2006 elections.

That's what I like to hear. If I hadn't already voted for Obama, this promise would have been enough to swing me to his side.

Which brings me to the second number to discuss, and that's 1.7 million. As in, George W. Bush won Texas by 1.7 million votes in 2004. Remember how I said John Kerry got 2.8 million votes? Bush got 4.5 million. That's a steep hill to climb.

But 2008 isn't 2004, not in any way, shape, or form. Even if you knew nothing about the crazy primary turnout, it would have been safe to assume that the GOP peaked, and the Democrats troughed, in 2004. With what we're seeing, who knows where the levels are now. Maybe we'll start to get some polling numbers to help us figure it out, I don't know. But when even a pessimist like Greg Wythe is saying that "going from say 2M primary votes to 50% of the 7.4M to eke out a win is something that may also soon enter the realm of the possible", then things really are different.

I'll leave it at that for now. We'll see where we stand after the last early voted does that deed on Friday.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on February 27, 2008 to Election 2008

I believe Bill Clinton carried Texas once. Hillary's forgotten?

Posted by: Kevin Hayden on February 27, 2008 5:28 PM

Not bad. But, I think he's highballing it a tad. For instance, the big 15 represent 60% of the state's popn, but 70% of the state's Democrats. And I have the early vote as 53% of the overall vote.

My turnout estimate has dropped from 2.4M to 2.3M because of yesterday's votes. Turnout was up, but the rate of increase was not as high as in past elections, in part because the floor is so high. My hunch is that it will drop further, probably to about 2.0-2.1M.

Posted by: Nicholas Beaudrot on February 27, 2008 5:36 PM

I believe Bill Clinton carried Texas once. Hillary's forgotten?

Bill Clinton lost to Bush by 3 (with a lot of help from Perot) and lost to Dole by 5.

Posted by: blank on February 27, 2008 9:30 PM

Profs:

Your GOP prediction is WAY off. I think 640,000 would be good.

I hope you're right (but you're not).

BC

Posted by: Billy Clyde on February 28, 2008 3:29 PM