Republican primary polling station is a pretty quiet place
Beneath Rick Santorum’s stunning three-state sweep on Tuesday stands another stubborn sign of dissatisfaction with the status quo: Republican turnout is down. I’m talking embarrassingly, disturbingly, hey-don’t-you-know-it’s-an-election-year bad. It is a sign of a serious enthusiasm gap among the rank and file, and a particularly bad omen for Mitt Romney and the GOP in the general election.
Here’s the tale of the tape, state by state, beginning with Tuesday night: Minnesota had just more than 47,000 people turn out for its caucuses this year — four years ago it was nearly 63,000 — and Romney came in first, not a distant third as he did Tuesday night. In Colorado, more than 70,000 people turned out for its caucus in 2008 — but in 2012 it was 65,000. And Missouri — even making a generous discount for the fact that this was an entirely symbolic contest — had 232,000 people turn out, less than half the number who did four years ago.
Always proudly rebellious, South Carolina has been the great outlier in this election cycle. With Newt Gingrich making an all-out push for conservatives in a conservative state, turnout was up almost 150,000 over four years before.
But in Florida, the decline became unmistakable. Maybe it decreased because the Romney and Gingrich campaigns, plus super PACS, spent more than $18 million in the Sunshine State on TV ads, of which 93% were negative in the last week alone, according to the Campaign Media Analysis Group. After all, negative ads depress turnout. But after all the mud was thrown, 1.6 million people turned out in the nation’s fourth largest state, which might sound impressive until you compare it with the nearly 2 million who turned out in 2008.
Nevada was even worse, with 32,894 people turning out to vote in a state with more than 465,000 registered Republicans. Four years before, more than 44,300 participated in the caucus. Turnout was down more than 25% despite the GOP caucuses being the only game in town. Party officials were expecting a turnout of more than 70,000…
You reap what you sow, and part of the reason turnout is down is directly related to the problem of polarization. The Republican Party is more ideologically polarized than at any time in recent history. Therefore, it put up more purely right-wing candidates than it did four years before, when center-right leaders such as McCain and Rudy Giuliani were also in the race. A bigger tent inspired bigger turnout…
The bottom line is that voter turnout matters. And what should be most troubling for Republicans is that this enthusiasm gap among the conservative base is accompanied by a lack of candidates who might appeal to independents and centrist swing voters in the general election. It is a double barrel of bad news for the Republican Party. The numbers can be spun and rationalized by professional partisan operatives all day long, but the fact remains — voters just aren’t turning out to cast their votes for this crop of conservative candidates in 2012.
Everyone knows the Congressional gridlock is a Republican “accomplishment”. They brag about nothing taking higher priority than stopping anything Obama tries to do – especially when his programs are aimed at restarting businesses and building jobs for Americans screwed by the Great Recession.
Programs offered as an alternative by Republicans simply don’t exist. All they have is ideology that gives them sexual circle-jollies sitting around a campfire cleaning their guns.
Then – the candidates lineup and take turns trying to prove who hates Hispanics, women, Blacks, students, grayheads the most. Every fundamentalist religion in the country knows they can get center stage at any Republican function – praying for a chance to take us back to the Dark Ages. The only difference is whether they opt for the 19th, 18th or 14th Century!