Do Primary Voting Numbers Spell a GOP Trend?

Trend surfing: You might as well start practicing right now, so you can get used to it. Say these words: Governor Rick Perry, four more years.

Why is Buzz predicting the return of Mr. Hot Hair to office? Well, he's leading the polls in his primary race and, so far, turnout in the GOP primary appears to be running higher than Democratic turnout. For example, though Monday 13,805 voters have cast early ballots in the Republican races in Dallas County, versus 8,537 on the Democrat side.

We asked veteran Austin-based GOP analyst and former Republican Party of Texas political director Royal Masset whether higher turnout in the primaries gives a party an edge in the general election.

"Oh, absolutely," Masset said. "There is a much higher tendency for people active in our primary to stay with us in November, which of course is the flipside of what we were worried about in the last election, the presidential election where there was so much activity on the Democratic side."

Turnout is the key to November, and primary voters tend to be motivated voters. Masset said 80 to 90 percent of the party's primary voters will go to polls in November. Of voters who don't cast ballots in primaries, that figure is around 40 percent.

"It's just mathematical tendency for people once they vote in the primary...You're on our computers. You're going to get called by our candidates in November. You're much more likely to call yourself Republican."

Dallas County elections administrator Bruce Sherbet, however, says comparing one party's primary turnout to the general election turnout is an apple-oranges thing. Who's at the top of the ticket is the real draw.

And what about the divisiveness of the battle between the two top GOP contenders, Perry and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison? Won't that do some damage to the final candidate in the end?

No, Masset said.

"It's just isn't that divisive." Masset said. "Everybody keeps talking like, 'Boy, everybody's mad and they hate each other.' If anything they're old buddies who obviously are fighting like crazy because they both want to be governor, but it's not been what I'd call a blood-curdling race by any means...Nobody's questioning their citizenship or where they were born...They're just basically calling each other mildly corrupt and incompetent, which is kind of mild," Masset said.

He's right, of course. The Republicans will wait till they go up against a Democratic opponent before they show their really vicious side.

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Patrick Williams is editor-in-chief of the Dallas Observer.
Contact: Patrick Williams