On the Delaware primary–and turnout

My colleagues David Freddoso and J. P. Freire have already commented in Beltway Confidential on the victory of Christine O’ Donnell over Congressman Mike Castle in Delaware’s Republican Senate primary. I agree with them and with Karl Rove that O’Donnell is a sure loser in the general election, for reasons described by John McCormack and others in the Weekly Standard’s Blog.

The inrush of hundreds of thousands of Americans into political activity symbolized by but not limited to the tea party movement has been on balance a positive development for the Republican party. It has injected enthusiasm and brought about the nomination of some appealing and talented candidates. But an inrush of new people also brings in a certain amount of wackos and nuts. Christine O’Donnell seems to fall into this category.

Her victory seems to be delighting those who like to see Republican party leaders frustrated. But I think Nate Silver is absolutely right that it reduces the chances of Republicans winning a majority in the Senate; looking ahead to the primary he argued that an O’Donnell victory in Delaware together with a defeat for Ovide Lamontagne in New Hampshire (which appears likely; he’s trailing 39%-37% with 87% of precincts reporting) reduces the chances of a Republican-majority Senate from 30% to 21%.

But in the primary returns from last night I see the continuation of another trend that bodes well for Republicans: they seem to match Democrats in turnout, even though almost all the September 14 primary states have party registration and significantly larger numbers of registered Democrats than registered Republicans. That’s true of New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maryland and Delaware. New Hampshire has more registered Republicans than Democrats and Wisconsin doesn’t have party registration.

In my Examiner column today, written of course before the results of yesterday’s election were reported, I noted that significantly more Americans have voted in Republican than in Democratic primaries this year—for the first time in an offyear since 1930[!]—but added that the margin may be reduced by the September 14 results. Looking at those results now as they are reported in Politico, it doesn’t look like they’ll be reduced by much. Here’s an approximate summary of the total vote in each party’s primary for the office for which most votes were cast (it may be different offices for the parties in the same state). I’ve rounded off numbers to the nearest thousand because they’re incomplete anyway and so precision would be misleading.

                                          Repub turnout      Dem turnout       advantage

                Delaware               58,000                   35,000                23,000 R

                Maryland             258,000                 412,000               154,000 D

                Massachusetts                  no comparable results available

                New Hampshire    111,000                   51,000                60,000 R

                New York             406,000                 540,000              134,000 D

                Rhode Island        18,000                 100,000                82,000 D

                Wisconsin            614,000                 233,000               381,000 R

What we see is a 94,000 Republican advantage without Massachusetts, which will have a Democratic advantage in excess of that number. But that’s not going to reduce very much the Republican edge in turnout in the primaries up to September 1, which was 3.2 million.

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