Democrats Savor 33% Turnout Surge Matched by GOP Excitement

Date: 2020-03-06 19:55:41


The extraordinary number of Democrats who cast ballots in presidential primaries on Super Tuesday might be worrisome for President Donald Trump. But Republicans appear to be just as excited to keep him in the White House. #SuperTuesday #DemocraticPrimary

Across nine Super Tuesday states where data is available, Democratic turnout rose an average of 33% compared to 2016. Virginia saw the most dramatic rise with a 69% spike in turnout. Texas had a 43% jump from 2016 numbers and in Tennessee, turnout increased by 38%.

“The turnout turned out for us,” Joe Biden said on Super Tuesday.

But enthusiasm is up on the GOP side as well.

Trump, who faces only token opposition for re-nomination, drew some 1.9 million votes in Texas, more than Bernie Sanders, Biden and Elizabeth Warren combined. He also enjoyed high turnout for his certain nomination in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Voter turnout is a subject of fascination and intense scrutiny by both parties, with Trump’s re-election bid expected to turn on decisions by mere thousands of voters in a handful of battleground states. Biden’s campaign, revived by a big win in South Carolina on Saturday, may have turned out more Democrats who say their primary concern is a nominee who can beat Trump, some analysts said. He won 10 states on Tuesday compared to Sanders’s 4, though the Vermont senator claimed victory in the biggest prize of the day, California.

Democratic turnout in Iowa was lower than the party had hoped, similar to 2016, and New Hampshire saw only a meager increase. But Trump enjoyed record turnout in Iowa, and in New Hampshire, the president got nearly 130,000 votes — more than double the 49,000 Obama garnered in 2012.

“Each side is so dug in. And it is going to be their person and they’re very enthusiastic about their particular side. The D’s have such a strong dislike of Trump that they’re going to turn out like crazy. People that are Trump supporters feel the same way about the other side,” said Carla Eudy, a Republican fund-raising consultant who advised John McCain.

Lesson Learned
Trump’s trademark campaign rallies always fire up his base. But this year, he’s held them in the same states and often within days of primary contests, which may have prodded Democrats to come out against him as well.

A lack of voter enthusiasm was partly to blame for Hillary Clinton’s defeat in 2016, when Sanders supporters, African-Americans and other key constituencies didn’t show up to vote.

Democrats learned from that election and turned out for the 2018 midterms, when they flipped 41 seats in the House of Representatives to gain a majority.

“This is a continuation of the turnout in 2018 which was the highest mid-term turnout in over 100 years since 1914,” said Whit Ayers, a Republican strategist. “Feelings about the president are very intense, both pro and con, and when you have intense feelings you tend to get more motivated to participate.”

Without accounting for population change, Democratic voter turnout in Massachusetts, Vermont and Virginia on Tuesday exceeded the 2008 primary, when the possibility of picking the first black president, Barack Obama, inspired many Democrats.

Former Congressman Mickey Edwards said voters may be similarly inspired by a front-runner they believe can beat Trump.

“The fact that Democrats have been able to generate that getting rid of Trump is the most important thing, that’s what happened to” Sanders, said Edwards, a Republican who doesn’t support Trump. He said the guiding force to Democratic voters in 2020 is: “Whatever politics we pursue, we have to take care of Trump.”

Trump supporters, he said, are a minority — but a fervent one that considers themselves in a battle, he said.

‘Want to Win’
Exit polls back up Edwards’s assertion. NBC News exit polls found six in 10 Democrats pointed to electing a candidate who can defeat Trump as their primary motivation.

“That doesn’t surprise me, I mean, it’s a party out of power. They want to win the White House,” Kellyanne Conway, a special adviser to Trump, said in an interview. “Turnout was high, but turnout was also high for President Trump and he had no competition, no real competition.”

The Trump campaign said Trump had higher turnout during the current primary season than Obama did when he sought re-election in 2012.

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