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« Trivia Tidbit of the Day: Part 869 -- America's Recession. | WILLisms.com | Trivia Tidbit of the Day: Part 871 -- Texas Is A National Leader In Cleaning Up Air. »

Trivia Tidbit of the Day: Part 870 -- Do Primary Votes Translate Into General Election Energy?

Spend, Spend, Spend-

In the 2008 election, we heard again and again that the Democrats' robust turnout in the primaries and caucuses would translate into higher turnout in the general election.

The 2010 story is nearly the inverse:


Virtually every leading political indicator points to a midterm election this November that could range anywhere from difficult to disastrous for Democrats.

The nation’s high unemployment rate, the declining approval ratings for President Barack Obama, and the Democrats’ lingering deficit in the generic congressional ballot all paint a dark picture for the ruling party.

And now, it appears, the Republicans have another indicator going in their favor – the “battle of the primary ballots.” Two years ago, the Democrats had a big edge in presidential primary turnout, a reflection of the “enthusiasm gap” that benefited them from the start of the year to the end. This time, however, it is the Republicans who have the most energy. This is evident not only in polling data but also in the GOP’s lead of more than 3 million votes over the Democrats when comparing the number of ballots cast in each party’s primaries through the end of August.

I am not completely sold on being able to universalize the "more primary voters means more general election voters" effect, since some primaries are just more competitive than others, but there could be something to it. Here are a few reasons:

1. Campaigns have to gear up for a tough primary fight, so they figure "it" out sooner than campaigns that coast through easy primary battles. This goes for mechanical campaign activities such as distributing campaign paraphernalia, signs, etc., but it also goes for messaging, staffing, and a variety of other internal campaign things.

2. If you have a heavily contested primary, and the other side doesn't, you simply have more extremely likely voters you can target for the general election. Ever wonder why you started getting mail from certain candidates or organizations all of the sudden? It's probably because you voted in enough consecutive primary elections. Your vote is private, but the fact that you voted in a certain primary is public information.

3. Even in highly negative primary campaigns, you may gain a sort of inoculation advantage. You become vaccinated against attacks. If your primary is truly contested, your opponent will use up most/all of the attacks and desensitize voters to them when they pop back up in the general election.

4. Ultimately, hotly contested primaries can energize brand-new voters. Some of the TEA party folks are infrequent voters, typically, but the satisfaction of winning a primary over the establishment RINO candidate could very well turn that infrequent voter into a dedicated, consistent, reliable activist, for years to come. Your new voters, although far more rare than the media typically portray, are going to be among your most evangelical (in the non-religious sense-- more "marked by militant or crusading zeal"). They will fight your fights. They will recruit others. They will get in the trenches and go to work, because they are true believers who aren't yet jaded.


Previous Trivia Tidbit: Texas Winning The Recession.

Posted by Will Franklin · 14 September 2010 06:41 PM