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Turnout Slippage: The GOP’s Silent Problem

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Something is very wrong in the ongoing Republican presidential primaries. Something beyond Rick Santorum, the theoconservative two term senator from Pennsylvania who, defeated by 17 points in his last reelection bid, is now currying popular favor.

So far, in almost every state’s nominating contest, fewer voters have shown up than did four years ago. For instance, Florida had 1.6 million participants in its primary late last month, while 2008 saw nearly two million. Roughly 47,000 voters showed up for Minnesota’s caucus earlier this week, a decrease of 16,000 from 2008’s turnout. At only 5,000, Colorado’s reduction was more modest, while Missouri suffered the greatest loss, a whopping 57 percent. Just 232,000 made an effort to vote in its primary, which occurred on the same day as Colorado’s and Minnesota’s races.

What does all this mean? Many pundits see a dangerous trend developing: disillusionment on the part of the average Republican. This creates a scenario in which the voting blocs of extremist candidates such as Santorum and former House speaker Newt Gingrich enjoy a disproportionate amount of power. As radical activists are the most likely demographic to vote in any caucus or primary, their voices become amplified in the absence of more reasonable ones. This, it would seem, is how Santorum had a sweeping three state victory on Tuesday night. His grassroots efforts among easily incited social reactionaries paid off in handsomely.

During the months to come, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, a moderate and national frontrunner for the GOP nomination, must home in on his base. As virtually every survey has shown, it mainly consists of affluent urbanites and suburbanites who have a marked distaste for his ideologically charged contenders. The more Romney tries to please everyone, the less happy his supporters are going to be. This, of course, creates disenchantment, which leads us back to the original problem.

Perhaps many Republicans are simply dissatisfied with their choices this time around and see no need to vote. This is understandable, but a plan for self-defeat. There is at least one contender whom any given voter dislikes the most, and it is he or she who should be voted against strategically. Hopefully, this message will resonate with enough moderates to present a suitable nominee who can actually beat incumbent President Barack Obama in the fall.

At the moment, for better or for worse, Romney is all they have. Accepting this sooner rather than later would be an excellent idea.

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About Joseph F. Cotto

  • Glenn Contrarian

    Newt! Newt! Newt! Newt!
    Rick! Rick! Rick! Rick!
    Mitt! Mitt! Mitt! Mitt!
    Ron! Ron! Ron! Ron!

    Y’know, I started out cheering for “family-values” Newt because he’s a dream opponent for Obama – but then I realized that the same goes for any of the GOP candidates. The only thing that I hope is that enough Republicans will stay home that we’ll keep the Senate and take back the House.

    Newt! Rick! Mitt! Ron! Yeah, life is good….

  • Cannonshop

    It’s simple, Joe-Unlike Democrats, Republicans aren’t going to “Just turn out to support the team” and the Party’s not presenting anything resembling a serious candidate, or even a serious platform for a joke candidate to run on.

    The GOP’s blown their credibility on the broad-spectrum issues like Fiscal Conservatism, constitutionalism, and “Small government”-they ran on those things, then did the opposite in every case, and the voters just aren’t buying it anymore.

    The ones that MIGHT have been able to make promises that the “Republican” voters would buy, didn’t have the funding, or the name-recognition, or the organization with sponsors that might’ve made them competitive, which leaves it to the “Names people Know” and the God-botherer.