As the master political analyst Michael Barone likes to point out, early turnout in primaries in special elections and primaries is a pretty good indicator of what shape the political parties are in. Last night Ohio, Indiana and North Carolina had their primaries, and the between-the-lines news bodes pretty well for the Party of Death.
In Ohio, statewide, Republicans Ken Blackwell and Jim "Blind People Suck" Petro were battling for the gubernatorial nomination while Democrat Ted Strickland was facing only token opposition for his party's nod. The Republican race had slighly higher turnout to the tune of 60,000 votes. But in the rest of the races, Democrats outpaced the GOP. The most dramatic race was in the rural 6th district, which borders on Ohio West Virginia and voted basically 50-50 Bush-Kerry. Democrat Charlie Wilson had seemed to blow this one when he filed his candidate petitions—he needed 50 legitimate signatures from voters and somehow failed to get them. In order to win the primary Wilson needed to get more write-in votes than two opponents, and since the candidate was a state senator from a district that didn't much overlap with the 6th, Republicans thought they could block him. The GOP House committee bought ads attacking one of Wilson's lame opponents, who was on the ballot, thinking they could build up his name recognition and get a critical mass of voters to pull his lever instead of writing in Wilson's name. But Wilson pulled through with 43,692 votes out of a total 65,797. The Republicans' preferred candidate won his primary with a lousy 18,356 votes out of 37,596. Again—this is a district where Bush and Kerry ran even. Where'd the Republicans go?
Indiana looked about the same for both parties. The most surprising race there was probably in the 8th district in Evansville and Terra Haute, a swing seat that voted 62-38 for Bush in 2004. Neither party's candidate had an opponent, and incumbent Republican John Hostettler (one of six GOP votes against the Iraq War in 2003) got 27,366 votes. But Democrat Brad Ellsworth got 43,213 votes.
None of these races are over until November, but these results hint that the GOP's low poll numbers and scandals are actually having an impact. If you've got stock in any red paint-making companies: Sell.