Steve Benen flags down the real story so far in the GOP primary: it’s not Mitt’s finishing problem, or clods of Santorum gumming up the works, or even Newt’s ego self-immolating like a phosphorus elemental in a gasoline refinery, but the significant turnout deficit compared to just four years ago.
So, what were the totals last night? In Minnesota, with nearly all of the precincts reporting, 47,826 Republicans participated in the caucuses, down about 23% from four years ago.
In Colorado, with all of the precincts reporting, 65,479 GOP voters showed up, a drop of nearly 7% from the 2008 totals.
And in Missouri’s non-binding primary, with all of the precincts reporting, turnout stood at 251,868. That’s quite a few for a primary dismissed as a “beauty pageant,” though as Cohen noted, the comparison is admittedly flawed.
Nevertheless, we can start to take some larger lessons away from the larger trajectory. For one thing, none of this makes Mitt Romney look especially impressive — he’s losing states he won four years ago; he’s struggling to get his supporters to participate; and he’s failing badly to match his 2008 vote totals at this stage in the process. It’s starting to look like Romney only wins when he spends several million dollars on attack ads to destroy his main challenger.
For another, this is part of a pattern. As was reported on “The Rachel Maddow Show” on Monday night, if we look just at self-identifying Republicans in the exit polls, turnout dropped 11% in Iowa, 15% in New Hampshire, and 16% in Florida. Though turnout in South Carolina was strong, it’s proving to be the exception, as evidenced by additional weak numbers in Nevada and in yesterday’s contests.
The GOP bet everything on the “Tea Party as the new majority” after 2010, and that assumption is rapidly turning into one of the biggest political meltdowns in a long time. Awesome. The further to the right they go, the more they lose from everyone else. Even their primaries are self destructing.
If you were a woman, a minority, a non-Christian, LGBT, a government or union employee or you make less than six figures a year, why would you care to vote in the GOP primaries since the party already classifies you as the enemy? I mean what what, literally leaves the 27% if that much? More like 2.7% at the rate they’re going. The only state where turnout was up? South Carolina. That speaks volumes.
We’ve still got loads of work ahead of us, but damn it feels good to see the sun again.