Things To Act
Wednesday, February 25, 2004
 
Primary Results & Impressions
The Utah Democratic Party has the results of the primary:

Kerry 19432 55.2%
Edwards 10486 29.8%
Kucinich 2602 7.3%
Dean 1343 3.8%
Clark 492 1.4%
Lieberman 407 1.2%
Gephardt 124 Less than 1%
Uncommitted 305 Less than 1%

Turnout: Though they don't seem to believe in totaling, it looks like 35,191 votes were cast. The news articles were trying to spin this as a dramatic increase in participation, but I'm not sure that holds up. Looking at some hastily-googled population numbers from this site, we have 1990 population at 1,722,850 and 2002 population estimated at 2,316,256. This is about a 34% increase over 12 years. Meanwhile, turnout in the last contested Democratic primary (1992) was put at about 27,000. That makes the increase from 1992 to 2004 about 30% over a similar 12 year period. While this data obviously doesn't take the relative level of partisanship of the Utah electorate into account (and I don't care to dig up those numbers, if available), an 8000 vote increase looks entirely reasonable given population trends [further caveat: I'm not sure offhand if the rules changed significantly between 1992 and 2004--obviously, if voting was either easier or harder then, that would say something]. My bottom line is that, based on evidence presented, attempting to spin this election as generating unusually high turnout doesn't hold up, at least in Utah.

Results: My initial reaction is that Edwards is doomed. Barring some major mistake by Kerry, there's no way Edwards can reverse his distant second trend. He doesn't even seem to have picked up enough Dean supporters to seriously have a shot at a 50-50 split. The way the trends are looking now, my impression is that Kerry may effectively have the nomination mathematically wrapped up after Super Tuesday, barring a major turnaround in the next week. I still think a major blitz on Utah (or Idaho, or Hawaii) at the last minute may have been a more effective campaign strategy for Edwards, as going winless into Super Tuesday makes his task basically impossible (the free media a win would have generated would have been worth more than all of the time Edwards has spent in next week's states).

That said, the 2671 voters who voted for Dean, Clark, Kerry, Lieberman, or who spoiled their ballots strike me as fairly dumb. There was no realistic chance for any of those candidates to get delegates, making the protest vote a wasted gesture (staying home would have done more). The 2602 Kucinich voters, on the other hand, strike me as amusingly misguided, but at least within the ballpark of intelligent protest voting (especially since Hawaii just awarded Kucinich his first pledged delegates)--Kucinich supporters are hopelessly idealistic enough to count for a third/minor party, rather than serious Democrats. Amusingly enough, all of the none K & E votes add up to just under 15%. Can they send a delegate in the name of "none of the above?"

Media: The DU runs an AP-credited article (not on newsnet), the only interesting feature of which is that partial numbers. It puts Kerry ahead (53-32) with "more than one-third of voting locations reporting." The accompanying chart shows numbers for 41 of 111 precincts, which add up to 3579 (about 10% of total votes). While some disparities are inevitable, presenting data from the lowest-turnout precincts first is problematic in the long run, and a gap between 10% of the votes and 37% of the turnout seems like it should be noticeable enough to be worth mentioning in the article. That kind of statistical nonrepresentativeness can get you into trouble--just ask President Dewey.

Acceptance: Kerry's quote ("ready to kick George W. Bush out of the White House") seems a little harsh to be motivating swing voters, particularly in Utah. I tend to think the worries about civility in politics are overrated, but this example looks, to me at least, like a tactical mistake more likely to alienate swing Republicans than to energize angry Democrats.

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