Virginia Primary Turnout
A lot has been made of the low turnout (3-4%) in the recent Virginia Democratic Primary. The concerns are largely unfounded.
First, the alternative is to select a nominee at a party convention, which would involve at most a few thousand participants, who also happen to be "party activists." An advantage of the party convention route is that it is less expensive, both for the party and the candidates. A big disadvantage--at least if you're nominating someone to run against an incumbent of the opposing party--is that there is less opportunity to attack that incumbent in the media, etc., thus generating early interest in the November election.
Second, as some astute observers have noted, turnout in last week's statewide senate primary should be judged as a percentage of Democratic voters in the state, not all voters. On that basis, turnout was roughly 10% (plus or minus 2 percent depending on assumptions you make) of the "eligible" voters. Still small, but better than a convention.
Third, for all the sound and fury generated by the campaigns, media, bloggers, etc., the Curmudgeon's gotta believe that the attitude of many Democrats (as we heard on several occasions) was something along the lines of "Hey, in a race against George Allen, I'm going to vote for either Webb or Miller and I'm happy with either one."
Fourth, you can't compare the turnout in recent Democratic primaries to that in the Democratic primary 30-40 years ago. In those days Virginia was a one-party state, and, hard as it is to believe, that party was the Democrats. More often than not, the real election--the one that would decide who would hold office--was the Democratic Primary. In reality, it was the General Election. So, of course, turnout was larger. (And a greater percentage of voters at the time were Democrats.)
Finally, you can hardly expect a lot of people to vote in an election with only one statewide contest--and in most instances nothing else. In the old days of one-party politics, there would be primary contests for a whole slate of federal, state and local offices, all at one time. These days, seriously contested primaries are unusual.
It is, however, too bad that Virginia has its elections for state office in the "off" years for federal elections. Having many offices decided in the same election usually boosts turnout for the simple reason that it's a lot more efficient (certainly from the voter's perspective) and interesting. Since 2006 is also a non-presidential election year, and since many Congressional elections are no longer competitive, it is that much harder to motivate voters, even in the general election.
The Curmudgeon forecasts pretty light turnout in November as well, with neither party likely to have much to rally their troops with (unless polls show a dead heat). Usually a lower turnout favors the GOP--in this case George Allen. We'll see if Webb can tap into some new voters and generate a little enthusiasm for change.
Here's some good news for men, courtesy of Parade Magazine: "In a study at Queen's University in Belfast, the mortality of about 1000 middle-aged men of comparable health was tracked over the course of a decade. The men who had sex three or more times a week had a 50% reduced risk of heart attack or stroke. And those who reported the most frequent orgasms had a death rate one-half that of the less sexually active men."
Come to think of it, maybe that's not such great news.
Today's 10 day forecast: Hi 87, mostly sunny, 20% chance rain. Rating: Y
Today's 5 day forecast: Hi 87, Isolated T-storms, 30% chance rain. Rating Y
Today's actual weather: Hi 89, mostly sunny, no rain.
The 10-day forecast was right on the mark.