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More Trouble For Democrats In 2010

In the primary elections yesterday held in Indiana, North Carolina and Ohio (all states carried by President Obama in 2008) there was one defining characteristic. Turnout. Democratic turnout was abysmal and Republican turnout was up.

Turnout among Dem voters dropped precipitously in 3 statewide primaries on Tuesday, giving the party more evidence that their voters lack enthusiasm ahead of midterm elections. In primaries in NC, IN and OH, Dems turned out at far lower rates than they have in previous comparable elections.

Just 663K OH voters cast ballots in the competitive primary between LG Lee Fisher (D) and Sec/State Jennifer Brunner (D). That number is lower than the 872K voters who turned out in '06, when neither Gov. Ted Strickland (D) nor Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) faced serious primary opponents.

Only 425K voters turned out to pick a nominee against Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC). The 14.4% turnout was smaller than the 444K voters -- or 18% of all registered Dem voters -- who turned out in '04, when Gov. Mike Easley (D) faced only a gadfly candidate in his bid to be renominated for a second term.

And in IN, just 204K Hoosiers voted for Dem House candidates, far fewer than the 357K who turned out in '02 and the 304K who turned out in '06.

By contrast, GOP turnout was up almost across the board. 373K people voted in Burr's uncompetitive primary, nearly 9% higher than the 343K who voted in the equally non-competitive primary in '04. Turnout in House races in IN rose 14.6% from '06, fueled by the competitive Senate primary, which attracted 550K voters. And 728K voters cast ballots for a GOP Sec/State nominee in Ohio, the highest-ranking statewide election with a primary; in '06, just 444K voters cast ballots in that race.

The 2010 mid terms really are beginning to look a lot like a slow motion train wreck. Turnout, and the voter enthusiasm that drives it, is the Democrat's biggest problem. In daily luncheon debates with friends the discussion has turned in recent months from the topic of what might happen in the midterms to a more speculative topic: what alternatives do the Democrats have to save themselves in November? Today House Appropriations Committee Chairman David Obey announced his decision to retire from Congress. Apparently Chairman Obey sees more obstacles than solutions for his party. As Ed Morrissey noted, it is one thing to retire from Congress after a long career, it is another thing entirely to give up the chairmanship of one of the most powerful political positions in the U S government.

When committee chairs retire, it usually means they don't expect to remain committee chairs for very much longer. When an Appropriations Committee chair retires -- a position considered one of the pinnacles of Congressional power -- then that goes double.

One of the most interesting elements of the 2010 midterm campaign is the difference between 1994 and 2010. In 1994 highly organized Republicans united behind a Contract With America agenda led by Georgia Congressman Newt Gingrich. Gingrich acted as both author and voice for that movement that toppled Democrats from decades of power. In the 2010 midterms the energy and voice seems to be emanating from two distinct groups: the Tea Party movement and a general anti incumbent mood in the electorate. The Tea Party is nowhere near as organized as Gingrich's Contract With America campaign and the National Republican Party apparatus is unfocused and disorganized, yet Republicans enjoy sizeable advantages in the generic ballot and have already won stunning victories in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts. In the midst of this one has to consider the surprising retirements of Evan Bayh, Chris Dodd, Byron Dorgan and David Obey.

One theory at work is that politics are going local again (paraphrasing the late Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill) just two years after the biggest national wave election in recent memory. Or it could be that Americans have opened their eyes to the most liberal administration and Congress in recent memory and decided to resolutely reject policies that are so radically opposed to the way they conduct their own lives?


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Comments (9)

I wonder how many of the De... (Below threshold)
Lee Ward:

I wonder how many of the Democrats who aren't voting have re-registered as Republicans and are voting in the GOP primaries instead.

For sure, erstwhile Democra... (Below threshold)

For sure, erstwhile Democrats are re-registering as Republicans in Ohio. In the largest counties (Cuyahoga, Franklin, Hamilton, Lucas, and Montgomery), the conversion is running at 7:1 to 10:1.

This is despite the fact that there are no statewide primary races among Republicans, and the Dems have just concluded a knock-down for the Senate seat.

For the 2008 primaries, the conversion was 5:1 in favor of Dems.

"Just 663K OH voters cast ballots in the competitive primary between LG Lee Fisher (D) and Sec/State Jennifer Brunner (D). That number is lower than the 872K voters who turned out in '06, when neither Gov. Ted Strickland (D) nor Sen. Sherrod Brown (D) faced serious primary opponents."

By contrast, with no primaries on the Rep side for either the Governor or the Senate seats, Rob Portman received 657,354 votes for senate, and John Kasich topped all candidates in all parties by getting 735,790 votes (Strickland got 620,963)

I wonder how ma... (Below threshold)
I wonder how many of the Democrats who aren't voting have re-registered as Republicans and are voting in the GOP primaries instead.
Probably a lot -- but not for the reasons you're hoping.
Too bad Charlie Wrangel has... (Below threshold)

Too bad Charlie Wrangel has not seen the writing on the wall and said that he is not going to run for another term. This the guy that chairs the very most important committee in the House. ie The Ways and Means Committee. The committee that sets the tax policy for the United States Government. Well if things work out right, he will be no longer the chair in 2011.

Here is my theory as to why... (Below threshold)

Here is my theory as to why Democrat votes are down. People today want to be part of history and voting for the first black President was making history. Voting for Democrats in Congressional races? Hmmm not so much.

This is such a "ME" generation that they don't realize that every election is historical, but they let election after election slide by until there is someone unique running and then they can claim that they helped 'mold' the nation with a historical vote.

You won't see these numbers of Democrats voting again until they run the first woman/Latino/handicapped/homosexual for President.

I agree with your first par... (Below threshold)
Lee Ward:

I agree with your first paragraph in #5, Dwayne, but you don the tin-foil hat and wander through the Tea bushes in paragraph 2 and 3.

And ask yourself this - if the black candidate in the 2008 Presidential election was a Republican instead of Democrat would the Republican have won? No.

"People today want to be part of history and voting for the first black President was making history. "

Obviously it had to be a black Democrat in order for paragraph one to be true. A black republican would not have won.

Lee, @ #1 you seem to imply... (Below threshold)
Jim Addison:

Lee, @ #1 you seem to imply crossover to sabotage; if so - and I hesitate because, like Humpty Dumpty in AIW, "`When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less'" - it seems to have been a spectacularly unsuccessful effort, given that Republicans seem to have nominated their strongest candidates in each case.

Or was the intent instead to merely inflate Republican turnout numbers, thereby instilling in us a false sense of security to be dashed by a hitherto unforeseen by any polling outfit, including those known to be partisan Democrats, movement to Democratic candidates in November? Diabolical!

@ #6, you misconstrue Dwayne's comment, but that does seem to be something of a habit of yours, anyway. The point was NOT that America only voted for a "black" candidate, but that those who turned out for the "historic" meaning behind doing so will not necessarily turn out for midterm races without Obama on the ballot.

But you knew that, didn't you? You're a literate person, surely able to decipher the meaning even if the phrasing were unclear, aren't you?

Hey, Lee, have you managed ... (Below threshold)

Hey, Lee, have you managed to figure out what Tea Parties the Times Square bomber attended? What right-wing extremist hate groups he was a member of?

I'm also waiting for you to quote me once -- just once -- where I lied.

Come on, Lee, quit playing the cut-and-run game where you scamper away when I challenge you, then pop back up on another thread. All it does is make you look like a cowardly, cheap-shotting, frothing, spoiled hypocrite.

Which, of course, you are, but still, dude. At least make an effort to stand by your own words.


"More Trouble For Democr... (Below threshold)

"More Trouble For Democrats In 2010"

Wha? Their gonna go with the Magic Negro..er I mean Black Magic again?






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