Tune In, Turn On, Turnout


Mike Allen's obligatory "Republican comeback?" story in TIME reveals more than it was supposed to. Allen's evidence for chinks in the opposition's armor doesn't include the Great Victimization Gambit of '06, but it does include this info from the Republican chairman:

Ken Mehlman, chairman of the Republican National Committee, says the opposition hasn't sold a vision for handling terrorism, Iraq or jobs. He also cites a drop-off in turnout for most Democratic primaries this year as one sign that the Dems aren't strong enough to mount a takeover of power on Capitol Hill.

This would be great news for Republicans, spending problems, Iraq debacle and all, if it were true. Alas, it isn't. Democratic turnout has actually remained steady or surged in most states that held primaries this year. Most Republicans who echo Mehlman's spin focus on Florida, and while turnout there plunged from 1,357,017 in 2002 to 857,814 in 2006, that had a lot to do with the fact 2002 saw an expensive, hard-fought battle that included former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno. Compare that to the trends in other states:

Minnesota gubernatorial primary, Sept. 12
2002: 224,238
2006: 316,470, up 41 percent.

Massachusetts gubernatorial primary, Sept. 19
2002: 746,190
2006: 910,877, up 22 percent

Hawaii gubernatorial primary, Sept. 23
2002: 188,781
2006: 238,069, up 26 percent

While poking around for examples I noticed that Missouri did see a decrease in Democratic turnout, from 368,149 to 289,573, down 21 percent. But Republican turnout fell even further, from 395,994 to 282,767, down 29 percent.

What's this mean? 1) Republicans are very, very good at crafting a narrative based on a few polls. 2) If Ken Mehlman says something, fact-check it. 3) Seriously, don't trust Mehlman. From what I've heard this week, the only boost Republicans have seen is the mid-single-digit boost they're getting in some districts thanks to lower gas prices.