GOP Primary Turnout: Mitt Fails to Inspire

Other than in South Carolina, 2012 GOP Primary turnout has been somewhat flat, or below that of 2008. Up +3 in Iowa and +6 in New Hampshire, it jumped to +35 in South Carolina but dropped to -14 in Florida. It’s possible that the last minute surge by Gingrich and his debate performances brought some added excitement to the race, turning out voters in South Carolina.

South Carolina, of course, was the strongest state for Newt Gingrich. In contrast, turnout among Republican identifiers was down for Mr. Romney’s two victories so far, as well as for his near-win in Iowa.

While it’s possible to argue that Romney’s negative advertising in Florida lowered turnout, along with the lack of a special real estate-related initiative – one was on the ballot in 2008 – a closer look at the numbers still points to a problem, especially for for Romney.

In both South Carolina and Florida, district-level turnout was more likely to trend up in districts that went to Newt, and flat, or down in ones that went for Romney. Once one looks at party identification, the trend gets even worse.

Turnout was heavier than normal in some portions of Charleston, Calhoun, Georgetown, Greenville, Kershaw, Pickens, Richland, Saluda and York counties, the state election commission reported based on anecdotal responses from county elections offices. Turnout was light in Allendale, Bamberg, Dillon, Hampton, Jasper, Newberry, Orangeburg, Union and Williamsburg counties, most of which lean Democratic.

Registered Republican turnout was -11 in Iowa, -15 in New Hampshire, +20 in South Carolina – where Gingrich won – and -16 in Florida. This is not a good sign for Republicans in 2012 and perhaps an ever worse sign for Mitt Romney.