Saturday, January 26, 2008

Some Numbers from South Carolina and Florida

And no, they aren't poll numbers or results.

There are some really interesting turnout
figures that are coming out of South Carolina and Florida. In South Carolina turnout for the Democratic primary today should set records as its three predecessors in Iowa, New Hampshire and Nevada did. FHQ doesn't have a much in the way of resources, but we do have a cadre of contacts scattered across the Palmetto state (in the Charleston and Greenville areas) who witnessed long lines at polling places today. The New York Times, citing South Carolina "officials," has reported that turnout will be around 350,000; up from 290,000 in 2004 (CORRECTION: It looks like the Times transposed the turnout figures in their original report. Later they estimated turnout for the SC Democratic primary at 530,000. That's a substantial increase over 2004 and more than the GOP drew in the state just a week ago.). We've played the turnout guessing game in a couple of contests thus far and we're batting .500 as far as who high turnout affects the most. In South Carolina, with nearly half of the Democratic electorate being comprised of African Americans, it is hard to say who will gain the most from high turnout. It depends on how each segment turns out.

We'll have another post up for the South Carolina results shortly.

But let's look at what's happening in Florida as well. Even before the contest is officially conducted on Tuesday, early voting numbers point to a high level of interest in a race that only officially involves the GOP (DNC rules have kept the major Democratic candidates out of the state.). Around 350,000 voters (the same as the number of Democrats in South Carolina today) have placed early votes either by mail or in person on the Democratic side while around 400,000 have done similarly in the Republican primary. Meaningless or not, that's a lot of votes before a contest that doesn't even count. Clinton's lead in the Florida polls has been large, but efforts are being made by Clinton and Obama supporters in the Sunshine state and that shows to some extent in the early voting numbers we see. Does that pull Obama close to even with Clinton there? And how does this affect the Republicans? Mike Huchabee has to be hoping that a lot of people cast early votes just after Iowa when he surged in Florida polls. And that is the real issue here. When were these votes cast and what political shocks were those decisions deprived of factoring in?

And adding a little more to the Florida frenzy, Republican governor, Charlie Crist is backing McCain. If only the early GOP voters had known.

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