The Right Trying To Spin Away The Enthusiasm Gap

WSJ's Washington Wire has some remarkable turnout statistics from last night that continue to highlight the extreme enthusiasm gap that exists between the two parties.

Still, a glance at the numbers provides a stark contrast. Vote counts haven't been finalized in the three jurisdictions, but 114,000 Democratic ballots were cast in Washington, D.C., compared to 6,000 for Republicans. In Maryland, 973,000 Democratic ballots were cast compared to 485,000 for Republicans, and in Virginia, 740,000 Democratic ballots were cast compared to 287,000 for Republicans.

In total, 1,827,000 Democratic votes were cast yesterday compared to 778,000 for Republicans.

The difference is stark indeed, but let's for argument's sake give the Republicans the benefit of the doubt and grant them that Maryland and DC are largely blue states/districts anyway and that the Democratic race is still very much competitive while the Republican one is generally considered to be over. How about similar statistics for Super Tuesday when neither of those things was the case?

Tuesday's results aren't an aberration. An early count conducted by Washington Wire of the 19 states that held primary elections in the Feb. 5 Super Tuesday contests show similar results. Approximately 18.3 million Democratic ballots were cast that day compared to 12.3 million for Republicans.

A 3:2 voter turnout gap in what was essentially a national primary. Pretty stunning. But you see, Republicans don't want to hear it. They're starting to hit back against this idea that the enthusiasm gap means, as Washington Wire understates it:

These figures could provide some concern for Sen. John McCain, the near-certain Republican nominee, as he turns his attention to the general-election fight.

So how are those on the right pushing back against this narrative? Check out this post from right-wing blog race42008 titled "Will Someone Kill This Meme?" in which the blogger compares the number of votes cast in the parties' respective primaries with the number of votes cast for the parties' respective nominees in every election since 1968. If you look at Democratic primary turnout versus Republican primary turnout, indeed, the highest Dem to Rep ratios were in 1984, 1972 and 2004 when we ultimately got beat in the general; in fact, the year that saw the highest raw number of votes cast in a Democratic primary was 1988 when, again, the Democrat got trounced. Ergo: no correlation.

But surely the blogger is aware that this argument is, at best, an exercise in grasping at straws. What the post doesn't acknowledge is that a. 2008 is unique in that both parties have contested primaries, the first time since 1952; and b. unlike in past primaries, the victor is still unclear even after half the country has voted. The 2004 Democratic primary had the 5th highest turnout (it was essentially over after 4 or 5 contests) but John Kerry received the most general election votes of any presidential candidate in history, second only to George W. Bush that same year. So the blogger is absolutely right in concluding there's no correlation, not using the apples and oranges comparisons he insists on using. But to somehow claim that the enthusiasm we see in this year's Democratic primary won't translate to enthusiasm for the Dem candidate in the general is, I think even this blogger would acknowledge, wishful thinking to say the least.

Taking a look at Jonathan Martin's breakdown of who exactly turned out in Virginia yesterday, particularly for Barack Obama, it's no wonder that another blogger at race42008, in an honest moment, expressed the following sentiment at the prospect of running against Obama in the fall:


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