Some South Carolina Republicans are seeking a party rule change to prevent Democrats and RINOs (Republicans In Name Only) from participating in the state’s nominating process, which is currently an open primary - meaning anyone can participate. The change would allow the GOP nominees to be chosen at the state convention rather than through a primary. The rule is necessary - according to its proponents - to ensure that true conservatives are chosen as their nominees. The rule change would certainly doom the interest in, and importance of (alleged), South Carolina as the first Southern primary, as the rule change opponents allege. Of course, this isn’t important to the proponents as maintaining ideological purity. They’ll need 75 percent of the state convention delegates to approve the rule change for it to be effective. If it is approved, the reaction from the RNC and the state parties should be interesting.
The RNC’s Growth and Opportunity Project report’s primary process recommendations have drawn my interest. Particularly, the prospect of an earlier convention and how that will affect the primaries. The RNC wants the convention to be held in late June, early July - “allowing our nominee more time to begin the general election phase.” This will necessitate chances in some state laws, such as Texas’. In addition, the RNC insists the eventual nominee will still need 60-90 days to prepare for the convention, making the last primary date April 30th or May 15th. So, everyone must move up their primary date. However, they still maintain the special status of Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and S. Carolina - anyone going before them would presumably be penalized.
Frontloading HQ has a great review of the recommendations: Thoughts on the Growth and Opportunity Project Recommendations
State Sen Dan Patrick has introduced SB 452, which would move the primary date from March to February 2nd. Several states, most notably Florida, have shown disdain for any proposed punishment the RNC attempts to establish as states leapfrog each other on the primary calendar.
Such legislation would have had no effect on last year’s primary, since the election date was moved due to redistricting lawsuits; however, it would make Texas the most influential early state with its 155 delegates (Florida with it’s 99 delegates is currently the only large, urban state represented in the early primary calendar). Even a 50% penalty, as was established by the RNC last year, would leave Texas with 78 delegates. Texas could thus be decisive in determining the direction of the primary.
(h/t: Dallas Morning News)
The Texas Secretary of State publishes the early vote numbers for select counties. During the regular primary, they published the numbers for the top 15 counties, and during the run-off, they published the numbers for the top 10 counties.
The early vote turnout for the top 15 counties during the regular primary was 343,497 - 4.7 percent of registered voters.
The early vote turnout for the top 10 counties during the run-off was 243,795 - 3.3 percent of registered voters.
That’s pretty amazing. Opinion about why the turnout is so high for the run-off and who it benefits varies, but it’s remarkable none the less.
In a prior post, we looked at the early vote numbers in the 15 most populous counties. In the Republican primary, there were 692,866 people who voted in early in the Presidential election, which was 48 percent of the total 1.4 million people (11 percent of registered voters) who voted in the Presidential primary. In the Democratic primary, there were 303,203 people who voted in early in the Presidential election. which was 52 percent of the total 587,146 (4.5 percent of registered voters) who voted in the Presidential election.
How does this compare to prior years? In the 2010 Republican primary, 1.5 million people voted, which represented 11.4 percent of registered voters, and in the 2008 Republican primary, 1.4 million people voted, which represented 10.7 percent of registered voters (Source). Turnout for the 2010 Democratic primary was 680,548 (5.2 percent of registered voters) and 2.9 million (22.54 percent of registered voters) in the 2008 Democratic primary (same source). [Note: voting age population percentages are obviously lower than the registered voter percentages cited].
While turnout has been bemoaned as low and blamed on the lack of competition in the Presidential race, the statewide turnout for the Republican primary has actually been comparable to 2008 and 2010 when there were competitive races for President and Governor respectively. The Democratic primary similarly returned to a norm; the 2008 primary would be the exception due to the excitement over the contest and the belief that Texas would have an impact on the race.
You can see the results for all the races here; many will be decided two months from now, since we’re going to have some run-off elections.
Turnout for early voting has been surprisingly high given that the Presidential race is effectively over.
According to the Texas Secretary of State’s Office, 343,497 Texans have voted early in the 15 most populous counties (Harris, Dallas, Tarrant, Bexar, Travis, Collin, El Paso, Denton, Fort Bend, Hidalgo, Montgomery, Wlliamsom, Nueces, Galveston, and Cameron). Dallas Morning News reporter Christi Hoppe notes that the 239 counties usually produce as many early votes as these 15 most populous counties, which suggests that statewide early vote total could be something around 680,000.
By way of comparison, there were 306,402 early voters in the 15 most populous counties in 2010 (Republican primary), and 1.5 million total voters in the Republican primary election. There were 303,338 early voters in the 15 most populous counties in 2008 (Republican primary), and 1.4 million total voters in the primary election (Source for 2008 & 2010 vote totals).
It remains to be seen if the turnout on Election Day (tomorrow) will be very high since it is the day after a long holiday weekend. Even if turnout is not high, the final total turnout could be near 1 million. Conventional wisdom suggests this is good for the incumbents, who have been tagged with the “establishment” label, because the voters turning out may not be committed ideologues.
Instead of discussing how last night’s results affect the Republican race (you can get a sense of my thoughts in this post), I want to discuss a couple of different observations.
First, the so-called Mormon issue is often talked about, especially in the South, and Chris Cillizza writes that Romney lost among voters who said it was important the candidate shared their religious views. However, a study by YouGov suggest the problem isn’t Romney’s Mormon background, but that he isn’t seen as conservative enough on issues like abortion and gay marriage, which also goes back to does the candidate share their religious views. Despite what the media thinks about how Romney’s faith is affecting his nomination quest, it’s likely not having that much impact, or at the very least, not as much impact as the perception of his stances on abortion and gay marriage as a result of serving as governor of Massachusetts.
Second, looking at the results from a historical perspective, Gingrich won many of the counties in the Black Belt area of Alabama, which V.O. Key described as a stronghold of conservative strength allied with the state’s business interests (Southern Politics in State and Nation, p. 43). Santorum won the northern and historically more populist regions of the state (p. 42), while Romney won in the most populated counties.
A similar sectional pattern emerges in Mississippi, where Romney won the Delta Counties, which have traditionally been the region of the propertied classes (p. 231), whereas Gingrich and Santorum split the Hills, which have traditionally been the home of the rednecks. However, Key notes that this sectional division is about more than economics and used prohibition as an example of the moral divide between the two groups with the Delta planters opposing Prohibition and the rednecks - lead by their pastors - supporting Prohibition (p. 233).