Even With "Token" Opposition, "Massive Turnout" for Trump in Early Primaries

President Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally, Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, in Manchester, N.H. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

After lackluster Democrat turnout in the Iowa caucus, Democrat party officials were heartened that turnout in New Hampshire was as expected*. Since President Trump faces zero opposition (looking at you, Bill Weld), Republican presidential primary voters don’t have as much of a reason to turn out – especially in the frozen tundra early primary states –  but turn out, they did. Politico reports:


Trump received more than 31,000 votes in the Iowa caucus, surpassing the 25,000 Democrats who turned out during Barack Obama’s successful 2012 reelection bid. Trump’s share was more than four times the number of Republicans who caucused during George W. Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign.

The vote totals in New Hampshire were even starker. The president received 129,696 votes, more than doubling Obama and Bush’s totals.

There are a couple of likely reasons for voter enthusiasm among the Republican base. The biggest reason is the personal investment many Republicans have in Trump, especially after he was “acquitted for life.”

“Impeachment has lit a fire under the Trump base — and I anticipate it will burn until Election Day in November,” said former Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, chairman of the pro-Trump Republican Jewish Coalition. “Voter intensity is a key element in electoral success.”

Also, unsurprisingly, the Trump campaign used the first two states as a “dry run” for this fall’s GOTV efforts, as previous incumbents have done.

Hoping to drive up its numbers, drown out primary opposition, and send a message to Democrats, the Trump campaign dispatched hundreds of field staff to New Hampshire and set up an operation to reach out to supporters by phone. Trump’s campaign treated Iowa and New Hampshire as a dry run for its general election turnout operation across battleground states.


Trump also held rallies in Iowa and New Hampshire ahead of their primaries, and is set to hold one the night before North Carolina’s Super Tuesday primary.

Early voting is already underway in North Carolina and in other Super Tuesday states, including Tennessee and California.

Louisiana pollster John Couvillon, who is keeping an eye on Tennessee’s early totals, said that “despite the lack of a serious contest, Republican turnout in the state is down only 3 percent from 2016, when the party was in the thick of a fiercely competitive primary.”

In California, voters are returning their ballots at a much faster pace than in 2016. Nearly 16 million ballots have been mailed, according to Political Data, Inc. (PDI), the state’s premier voter data firm, and 862,448 have already been returned. Of that total 353,526 of them are from Republicans and 329,282 are from Democrats.

That’s not entirely surprising because early voters in California have tended to skew Republican. But, there are a number of state legislature races with no Republican on the ballot, and some observers blame Trump for the California GOP’s woes. Why, then, would such a high number of California Republicans be voting early?


My slightly-educated guesses:

  • Many Trump supporters in California don’t go public with their support.
  • People are fed up with Sacramento’s obsession with Trump to the exclusion of fixing homelessness and in the face of increasing crime and vagrancy.
  • Millions of Californians who were either full-time or part-time freelancers have been supremely screwed over by AB5 – some to the point of having to quickly move or go bankrupt – and instead of even pretending to care, Gavin Newsom and Sacramento Democrats have doubled down on a bad law and pledged $20 million to enforce it.

Paul Mitchell of PDI went straight to the horse’s mouth and asked voters who’ve already cast ballots why they did so.

Whether Trump’s ability to drive voters to the primary voting booth will continue remains to be seen. He’s continuing his winning formula of appearances (i.e., appearing at and conducting a flyover at Daytona Motor Speedway today, a month from primary day), and pugilistic tweets aimed at political enemies, and clueless critics like Nancy Pelosi and Adam Schiff keep playing into Trump’s narrative and solidifying his base, so it doesn’t look like anything’s happening to change the pattern.



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