Tucked inside a Washington Post story on the new GOP cult was some unfortunate news for Republicans:
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, whose primary campaign highlighted his alliance with Trump, was forced into a runoff with a business executive who ran as an outsider. Turnout in that race was down by about 25 percent from 2010, the last time the state’s Republicans had a contested gubernatorial primary.
Similar signs of disinterest bedeviled Republicans in other primary states. In Maine, while just 90 percent of precincts had been counted, Republicans were likely to fall roughly 30,000 votes short of their 2010 turnout. In Nevada, roughly 30,000 fewer Republicans voted than in 2010; Adam Laxalt, who tied himself more closely to Trump than to the state’s outgoing Republican governor, had gotten a last-minute Trump endorsement in the gubernatorial race.
In Virginia, Republican turnout was lower than it had been for 2017’s gubernatorial primary; Stewart, who had lost that race with 155,780 votes, won Tuesday’s Senate primary with 136,410 votes.
If it were one race or one place, it might just be an anomaly. But taken together, it’s notable, especially given the fact that Democratic turnout has consistently surged in special elections across the nation ever since Trump took office. Even in districts where Republicans have seen an uptick in turnout, it’s significantly trailed the Democratic surge.
It’s hard to know exactly which Republicans are staying home or why, but one possible explanation is that GOP moderates see less and less reason to vote in Republican primaries. If that’s the case, the GOP’s slate of extreme pro-Trump candidates will leave them with three choices in November: hold their nose and vote Republican, stay home, or cast their vote for a Democrat. The latter two choices would help Democratic candidates significantly this fall.
The depressed GOP turnout also tracks with Civiqs polling showing Republican voters who are “very enthusiastic” about voting this fall trail Democratic voters who say the same thing by 13 points.