Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: email@example.com
I was at a Governing conference today, so I didn't get to comment on the results from Illinois. I'll have more to say tomorrow, but my first thoughts are along the lines of Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling:
Based on the current numbers 885,268 voters were cast in the Democratic primary for Senate compared to 736,137 on the Republican side. Those numbers are awfully close to each other for a state that's overwhelmingly Democratic.
For sake of comparison the last time there were competitive Senate primaries on both sides in Illinois, in 2004 when Barack Obama was nominated, there were nearly twice as many votes cast in the Democratic primary as the Republican one. 1,242,996 voted in the Democratic race to 661,804 for the Republicans.
To add another data point to the discussion, 2002 was the last year with contested primaries for governor in both parties. It's also probably a somewhat fairer comparison than 2004, since 2002 and 2010 have the same offices up (i.e. all of the statewide offices).
As of this evening, 912,662 Democrats have voted for governor, while 765,371 Republicans have voted for governor. That means that 45.6% of the voters have been Republicans.
In 2002, 1,252,516 Democrats and 917,828 Republicans voted in the gubernatorial primaries. That means 42.3% of voters were Republicans -- slightly lower than this year, but relatively comparable.
As you'll remember, 2002 was a good year for Republicans. Democrats didn't do that badly in Illinois, though. They won the governorship and Dick Durbin held his Senate seat.
Using primary turnout figures to predict general election results is a risky business. The primary turnout numbers definitely looked good for Martha Coakley in Massachusetts. But, they're better than nothing.
I'd say that the turnout figures in Illinois should be encouraging to Republicans, but not necessarily alarming to Democrats. Democrats have lots of better reasons to be alarmed.
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