According to a study of voter participation in primaries thus far, Republicans are turning out in unusually high numbers, even for them.
And worse, Democrats aren’t. (Despite all the hype about “feeling the Bern,” turnout isn’t reflecting a groundswell for Bernie Sanders, and Hillary is widely considered competent but uninspiring.)
Turnout has long been the GOP’s ace-in-the-hole. According to both voter registration rolls and polling results, Democrats outnumber Republicans nationally by a comfortable margin. Granted, both gerrymandering and what has been called “residential sorting”–the fact that Democrats tend to cluster in urban areas while Republicans are more numerous in rural and suburban precincts–operate to favor Republicans. Republicans have also been much better at voter suppression tactics like Voter ID.
But Republicans’ real advantage has been turnout. For whatever reason, the party has been able to get more of its voters to the polls than the Democrats.
Scholars at the Brookings Institution have suggested that McConnell’s Supreme Court obstruction is largely about turnout.
This approach [total obstruction].. breathes fresh life and fresh fight into the conservative base and serves as a potentially unifying issue after a divisive Republican presidential primary season.
In other words, obstruction and partisanship motivate the base.
This year, if Republicans once again turn out in greater numbers than Democrats, the disparity could give us the unthinkable—President Trump.