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« Wednesday Caption Contest: Part 132. | WILLisms.com | Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 477 -- Superdelegates. »

Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 476 -- Primary Turnout Means Nothing.

Avoid The Noid-

Much has been made of the disparity between Democrats and Republicans in these primaries and caucuses. Too much, in fact. Indeed, turnout during primaries, historically-speaking, means absolutely nothing for general election contests.

Some proof of this lack of phenomenon:


Look at 1988, for example. That was a record year. Democrats demolished Republicans in the primaries, yet it was a sweeping landslide for George Herbert Walker Bush over Michael Dukakis in November. Despite plenty of enthusiasm in the primaries, general election turnout (50.1%) was the second lowest of the past twelve presidential elections (only better than 49.1% in 1996).

Look at 1980, when Democrats had six million more primary voters than Republicans. Ronald Reagan went on to destroy Jimmy Carter in the general election.

In 2008, there is an enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans. There's no doubt about that. The proof is in the tepid fundraising numbers for Republicans compared to the astounding campaign hauls of Democrats. The proof is in the rally sizes, the internet searches (or lack thereof) performed for candidates on the respective sides, and the primary and caucus turnout figures.

Democrats, frankly, have a more compelling and exciting race right now. After McCain won South Carolina and Florida, Super Tuesday was really more of a coronation than a heated contest. Coronations draw fewer voters than heated contests.

Nevertheless, it is now February. We have eight months until the election. While Hillary Clinton would obviously unite and energize the Republican base, so would Barack Obama, the most liberal Senator in America. Moreover, while John McCain's record is not a reliably conservative one on everything from taxes to immigration, he will undoubtedly win over many conservative skeptics between now and November-- and not just the Anyone But Hillary types, either.

Ultimately, the election will be about Iraq and terrorism (retreat or win), taxes (hikes or not), Supreme Court nominees (lurch the Court leftward or not), and health care (socialized medicine or not).

Sure, it will be about a lot of other things, too, but there are some serious reasons for conservatives to get excited about this election. It might even be possible that John McCain, however flawed a candidate and however disdainful of the conservative movement he has been, could disarm liberals and the media, bringing some credibility and political capital toward some of the big issues facing America.

As a Senator, John McCain supported major campaign finance restrictions that-- ironically-- might harm his chances to win this year. We know the litany of other sins John McCain has committed. But he's also been a bulldog on spending and a champion for success in Iraq. On the issues, people will come around. On the issue of character, John McCain has an incredible story and far greater gravitas than either Hillary Clinton or Barry Obama could ever have.

This is not an endorsement for John McCain. Far from it. But let's get real about the primary season turnout gap. It has never translated into anything in the general election, historically. It won't this year, either.


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Unions.

Posted by Will Franklin · 6 February 2008 09:06 PM


Time to screen comments.

Good article, anyway!

Posted by: Terry_Jim at February 10, 2008 01:38 AM