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Turnout, turnout, turnout

Posted by Richard on August 11, 2010

John Whitesides of Reuters said that Democrats were "heartened" by the primary results in Colorado:

Democratic Senator Michael Bennet's primary win in Colorado bucked a national anti-incumbent trend and was good news for Obama, who campaigned for Bennet in a bitter fight against a challenger backed by former President Bill Clinton.

Republicans, meanwhile, saw candidates backed by the party establishment go down to defeat to outsiders in Colorado and Connecticut Senate primaries that could complicate their chances in November.

"Democrats definitely had the better night," analyst Jennifer Duffy of the nonpartisan Cook Political Report said. "Pulling an incumbent back from the edge of defeat in an environment like this is a good result."

Democrats have been battling a strong anti-Washington and anti-incumbent voter mood in their quest to retain control of the House of Representatives and the Senate in November.

Um, yeah. But challenger Andrew Romanoff wasn't exactly an "outsider." He's a career politician, a popular former Speaker of the State House, and one of the best-known Colorado Democrats.

In fact, it was appointed Senator Bennet who tried to portray himself as the outsider. When he wasn't exchanging smears with Romanoff, his ads said basically, "I've only been in the Senate a year, and I'm shocked — shocked! — at how broken the system is and how terrible all those Washington insiders are. I want to go back and change things." Never mind that he spent the entire year voting exactly the way Harry Reid told him to. 

Bennet also outspent Romanoff about six to one. 

As for the Republicans, nothing pleased me more than seeing the establishment-anointed and contemptible Jane Norton suffer a well-deserved defeat (see here and here).

Does Ken Buck's convincing victory in the Senate primary really "complicate" things? Well, I suppose it does for the business-as-usual Colorado Republican establishment. But it's past time for them to wake up, straighten up, or get out of the way. They might want to take note of the fact that more than half of surveyed Colorado Republicans, almost a third of independents, and almost a third of all voters describe themselves as Tea Party members — not just supporters or sympathetic, but members

But the big news from Colorado that discredits Whitesides' narrative deals with turnout. Both parties had hotly-contested, high-profile Senate races that were expected to go down to the wire. Total turnout smashed primary election records. Yet, in a state that Obama carried by ten percentage points, the major party vote totals told a compelling story. Over 407,000 people voted in the Republican primary, versus about 338,500 in the Democratic primary — nearly 70,000 fewer. The Rs turned out 48% of their registered voters, the Ds managed only 41%, despite a race in which (by proxy) Bill Clinton squared off against Barack Obama.

If the Republicans manage not to screw themselves (admittedly, that's a big if), that kind of enthusiasm and involvement advantage ought to translate into a significant advantage for Ken Buck going into the general election. 

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