Listening to Mitt Romney’s victory speech in Florida (“In his State of the Union Address, the president actually said, “Let’s remember how we got here.” Don’t worry, Mr. President, we remember exactly how we got here! You won the election!”), my colleague Paul Gullixson wondered out loud whether primary voters really believe that Obama is solely responsible for the state of the U.S. economy, even beyond the time-honored campaign query, “Are you better off than you were four years ago?”
Primaries are, indeed, fought on the fringes. That’s true in both parties. But this year, it’s the Republicans who have a nomination contest, so consider a few numbers:
Florida, with 19 million residents, is the fourth largest state. It has 11.2 million registered voters, and 8.4 million ballots were cast in the 2008 presidential election. Yet on Tuesday, just 1.66 million votes were cast in the Republican primary, a turnout of 41.1 percent of GOP voters.
For comparison’s sake, there are 1.69 million registered Republican voters in Los Angeles and Orange counties alone and more than 750,000 in Maricopa County, Ariz. (Phoenix). I was unable to locate data for Texas (it’s one of 21 states in which voters don’t mark a party preference when they register), but I’d wager there are more Republicans in Dallas-Fort Worth than there were voters in the Florida primary.
My point being that primary voters are the partisan base, the true believers in either party. And, yes, I think plenty of voters in this year’s primaries think Obama deserves all the blame for the economic meltdown, just as plenty of Democrats believed that Bush, despite a graduate degree from an Ivy League school, was a dunce. And, as always, when the primaries are over this spring, the sprint to the middle – where the vast majority of the electorate can be found – will begin.
– Jim Sweeney