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Enthusiasm Curbed as GOP Primary Turnout In Flagler and Florida Plummets From 2008

| February 2, 2012

Flagler Beach's city hall polling station drew voters interested in their municipal election, but GOP primary voters were proportionately less interested. (© FlaglerLive)

In Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, turnout in the year’s first three Republican presidential primaries was 2 to 3 percent better than it had been in 2008, when Mitt Romney was battling with John McCain (the eventual winner), Rudy Giuliani, Mike Huckabee and four others.

The latest cover by Barry Blitt and The New Yorker.

By the time Romney, Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul brought their brawl to Florida for Tuesday’s primary, the wind had gone out of voters’ sails: in Flagler County and in across Florida, turnout in the GOP primary plummeted, a bad sign for the party’s hopes of reclaiming the White House—whoever is its nominee—as a lower turnout among Republican ranks would likely translate into an advantage for the Democratic ticket.

Just 10,825 Flagler Republicans turned out to vote in Tuesday’s primary, for a 43 percent turnout (calculated from registered Republicans only). That’s 803 voters lower than the tally four years ago. But Flagler’s Republican ranks have grown by more than 2,000 voters in the past four years. In 2008, 53 percent turned out for the primary.

Across Florida, the Republican turnout was 14 percent lower than it was in 2008. In all, 200,000 fewer Republicans voted (or 1.7 million, down from 1.9 million in 2008).

When the Flagler Republican Club met Wednesday evening, the membership was satisfied, on one hand, that turnout was better than the 10 percent and 13 percent turnouts that the non-partisan election for Palm Coast mayor and two city council members drew late last year (the worst turn-outs in the city’s history). But Republican club members were also apprehensive about the net results.

“We said to ourselves that it was better, it wasn’t best,” Gail Wadsworth, president of the club, said, “and we needed to work hard to get ourselves to a greater level than that.”

Wadsworth noted that the bitter tone of the campaign between Romney and Gingrich, which several local Republican leaders spoke of in interviews last week, hurt the party and the turnout. “I feel that the excitement was generated by candidates in the negativity,” Wadsworth said. “The negativity caused people to say at the end of the day, I don’t want to vote for people like that.”

Wadsworth echoed the sentiments of Susan MacManus, the political scientist at the University of South Florida who analyzes state elections. “There was an instantaneous deluge of negativity—overnight,” MacManus told the Wall Street Journal. “The personal-minutiae attacks in a state with massive economic problems made for a huge disconnect for Republican voters.”

The 2008 primary ballot did include a proposed constitutional amendment that drew more people to the polls, and that may explain some of the disparity in turnouts. That amendment, which passed, doubled the homestead exemption to $50,000 while limiting tax assessments. Looking at the finer print of turnouts even in South Carolina, where there was a large net increase from 2008, analysts found that, when all Republicans of voting age were compared between 2008 and 2012, turnout actually fell from 19.5 percent to 17.3 percent.

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6 Responses for “Enthusiasm Curbed as GOP Primary Turnout In Flagler and Florida Plummets From 2008”

  1. elaygee says:

    The people who hated Gay people more than they liked Creepublican candidates stayed home this time

  2. Anonymous says:

    I believe that Ms.Wadsworth told us, on Wednesday, that 3,000+ Democrats, transferred to Republican, to be able to vote, during the 30 days prior to the primary, cut off date.

  3. K says:

    I seriously considered registering as a republican (even though I’m a Democrat) so I could vote in the primary and try to prevent one of the real nut jobs from winning. It’s a long shot but Florida was stupid enough to elect a criminal in Rick Scott so it’s not out of the question that someone stupid like Bachman or Perry, another criminal like Gingrich, or a right wing radical like Santorum could win the national election.

  4. Michelle says:

    I, for one, changed party so I could vote to hopefully give Ron Paul a chance! Wasn’t the first time that I had ‘changed’ and will not be the last. Have voted since I was old enough (over 50 years) – my parents instilled in me that it was my civic duty – back when we used to be taught such things in school also.

  5. Oneofthe10%whovoted says:

    This happened in the 08 Presidential election. We had democrats who changed their voter registration to Republican and then would not vote in the general.

    I don’t suppose that was by accident, do you?

    We have an awful lot of registered voters here that nobody has ever seen.

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