Much has been made of the “enthusiasm gap” predicted for this fall, that Republicans will be more likely to turn out at the polls than Democrats giving their candidates advantages. Early voting statistics in Louisiana appear to show this state comports to this tide.
The Aug. 28 party primary elections feature a statewide party primary for each of Republican, Democrat, and Libertarian nominees for senator, and congressional primaries for Democrats to challenge for the Second District, for Republicans to go for an open seat in the Third, for Democrats to challenge for the Fourth, and for a Republican to challenge the incumbent for the nomination in the Fifth. Keep in mind that Republicans only may vote in their primaries and Libertarians in theirs, while in the Democrat primaries Democrats and no-party registrants may vote in those. Through Tuesday, the statewide figures were 6,525 Republicans having voted, 5,015 Democrats having touched the screen, and 525 no-party and other party registrants having joined them.
The numbers reflect to some degree the competitiveness of the contests, which, on whole, are about the same for each major party. Neither has what is shaping up to be competitive Senate primaries, but there are spirited races for the Democrats in the Second and Republicans in the Third. Democrat David Melville ought to win easily in the Fourth, while incumbent Rep. Rodney Alexander should cruise to renomination in the Fifth.
This means that, given pretty equivalent competitiveness stimuli, of the state’s registered voters as of Aug. 1 about 0.86 percent of Republicans, 0.34 percent of Democrats, and 0.08 percent of no-party and other party registrants have voted in these first three days of early voting. Also considering that 9,975 whites and 1,898 blacks have voted, representing, respectively, about 0.53 percent and 0.21 percent of their totals, means there are three interesting aspects of these statistics to note.
First, while typically GOP adherents are slightly more likely to vote early, the initial gap between the major party participants is huge. Second, the very scarce turnout of no-party/other party people, despite a Libertarian statewide primary and an invitation to vote in Democrat primaries, shows that independents are very unenthusiastic about choosing Democrats. Third, while typically whites are slightly more likely to vote early, even with the Second District Democrat primary present and seen as the event by which to anoint the “official” black challenger to Republican Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao, blacks – who vote overwhelmingly Democrat – also seem less intensely caring about elections so far this cycle than do whites.
This tableau of relatively greater enthusiasm by Republicans than Democrats and presumably lesser enthusiasm by independents for Democrats impacts potentially two of these contests. For the Senate, it confirms the impossibility of Democrat challenger Rep. Charlie Melancon of knocking off Republican incumbent Sen. David Vitter absent an incredible blunder by the latter that could reverse the enthusiasm gap. But it also gives hope to Cao, especially with the relatively low initial black turnout from the statewide numbers where, given the nature of the Second District nomination battle, it should be much higher.
While the district’s demographics are very much against Cao, there’s some evidence to believe he’s not dead in the water in his reelection attempt. Further, the main reason Cao pulled off his big upset in 2008 was because of an enthusiasm gap favoring him (running against the national tide of a month previous, then). Perhaps these very early indications show the stars might align again in his favor.