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Like the Blowout Principle is the mathematical undermining of the Slate delegate calculator, the Closed/Open Principle is undermining turnout predictions for the remaining states.

A couple weeks ago, I wrote a diary that attempted to predict turnout, but it wasn't a full analysis.  I believed it a sounder model than those predicters who were merely throwing spaghetti at the wall, because I tied the turnout to congressional districts and past performance in the 2008 primary cycle, distinguishing between closed and open/semi-open primaries and comparing like to like.

Still, I began seeing different numbers and methods around the web.  Over at Open Left, fladem tied predictions of turnout straightforwardly to 2004 GE Kerry performance.  PA turnout was pegged at 75% of 2004 Kerry GE turnout, based on an average of 64% of Kerry turnout in primaries and 80% of Kerry turnout in primaries post-Super Tuesday.  I wanted to take a closer look because some 2004 GE states were battlegrounds and others were not.

Michael Barone, favorite slurp target of belligerently non-elite Morning Joe Scrangstownacola Scarborough, tied turnout predictions to things he pulled out of his ass.  Or maybe he asked The Hacktastics (Clinton subsidiaries Sean Wilentz and Craig Crawford) to cook up some numberzes.

The bottom line was I didn't like my first pass because I was uncomfortable without looking closer at blue-ness of the states and wanted a deeper look.  I am suspicious of tying turnout in a contested primary to turnout in the 2004 general election, when many states were not contested (which affects the average).  

Also, the recent PA registration surge made me re-test my own theory and find it incomplete.  [With Friday, April 11 as the NC registration deadline (the numbers will be updated for a few days afterward), PA leads in Dems by about 391,000 over Dems+Indies in NC (4,190,064 to 3,799,076).]

First, a few observations.

Observation #1: Three PA-bordering closed primary states and nearby Connecticut had the following turnout of registered Dems (and there were big drives/big publicity in these states too):

Delaware - 37.3% of registered Dems, 48.2% of Kerry GE vote
New York - 37.5%* of registered Dems, 43.2% of Kerry GE vote
Connecticut - 51.1%* of registered Dems, 41.5% of Kerry GE vote
Maryland - 49.3% of registered Dems, 65.8% of Kerry GE vote

Observation #2: In 2002, Pennsylvania turned out roughly 1,240,000 votes in a highly contested Rendell-Casey gubernatorial race.

Observation #3: Fladem says PA = 75% of Kerry vote and thus just over 2.2M.  That's not inconceivable, but you have to put it in closed primary context and see why it's a high prediction.

Observation #4:
In closed primaries, the average turnout has been 55.39% of that state's 2004 Kerry GE vote.
In semi-open primaries, the average turnout has been 63.46% of that state's 2004 Kerry GE vote.
In open primaries, the average turnout has been 74.99% of that state's Kerry GE vote.

Some may say that the 6 week focus will inflate the number over other averages, and this is partially persuasive to me.  But it's also persuasive to me to say that these primaries are still not generating as much as the Kerry vote, meaning we can't get too carried away with equating a primary to a general.  Many of these numbers in the 40% range are record primary turnouts.  Record Democratic primary turnout was set in 12 states through Super Tuesday:  Alabama, Arizona, Connecticut, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, South Carolina and Utah.  Since these records are still mostly in the 25%-50% range, it's not ok simply to blithely say PA will be higher than 50% of registered Dems without a lot of supporting evidence/argument.

State        2008 Turnout    #RegDems    %RegDTurnout
Arizona              455,635        904,741            50.4
Connecticut       355,561       695,894            51.1
Delaware              96,374       258,300            37.3
Maryland           878,174    1,782,541            49.3
New York        1,862,445    4,966,942            37.5
Oklahoma          417,207    1,012,594            41.2
                                                      avg. = 44.5%

Pennsylvania   as of apr 6    4,190,064
Kentucky      as of mar 17   1,614,250
Oregon             as of Feb        775,119
South Dakota                        n/a yet

State          2008 Turnout    #KerryVotes    %ofKerryTurnout
Arizona              455,635            893,524        51.0
Connecticut        355,561           857,488        41.5
Delaware              96,374           200,152        48.2
Maryland            878,174        1,334,493        65.8
New York         1,862,445        4,314,280        43.2
Oklahoma           417,207          503,966         82.8
                                                             avg. = 55.4%

Pennsylvania                          2,938,095
Kentucky                                  712,733
Oregon                                     943,163
South Dakota                            149,244

Note that Oklahoma's turnout has distorted the average in the second table.  There was a lot of room for Dems to improve enthusiasm for Dems in a place like Oklahoma, but but in much more Dem-friendly and Dem-stable mid-Atlantic states the range of Kerry turnout runs from 41-66%.  Of course, one could argue the other closed primary states did not see contested general election races in 2004.  None were battlegrounds (arguably Arizona slightly).  Meanwhile, Pennsylvania was a 2004 battleground, meaning much more effort was put into building Kerry turnout there.  If nothing else, that should cancel out the factor of more time focused on PA than the other states in the primary season.

Looking ahead to NC

State           2008Turnout       #RegD         #RegI      #DITot   %TurnRegD     %TurnRegDI
New Hampshire   205,040     258,556      356,023      614,579      79.30        33.36
California         5,066,978   6,749,406   3,043,164   9,792,570      75.07       51.74
Massachusetts 1,254,437   1,472,707   1,987,053   3,459,760      85.18       36.26
New Jersey      1,108,044   1,170,644   2,798,817   3,969,461      94.65       27.91
Utah                  131,403      125,992  *1,040,000   1,165,992    104.29      11.27

North Carolina as of Apr10: 2,577,894    1,221,182   3,799,076
West Virginia                        n/a yet

State               2008 Turnout    #KerryVotes    %ofKerryTurnout
New Hampshire        205,040        340,511      60.22
California               5,066,978    6,745,485      75.12
Massachusetts       1,254,437    1,803,800      69.54
New Jersey            1,108,044    1,911,430      57.97
Utah                         131,403      241,199      54.48
                                                            avg = 63.46%

North Carolina                           1,525,849
West Virginia                                326,541

The conclusion from the NC portion of this data is unclear.  As a proportion of Registered Dems, NC would look likely to be very high, somewhere in the 1.8M-2M range.  But in the D+I proportion, we'd look to around 1.3M-1.4M turnout.  One of the problems is the wide disparity in the previous semi-open states' proportion between Ds and Is.  New Jersey obviously has many more unaffiliated voters than registered Dems, whereas California is the reverse.  NC has a proportion closer to California with Ds outnumbering Is/unaffiliateds roughly 2-to-1.  

Clearly Massachusetts is as blue as California, yet the percentages of unaffiliateds in Massachusetts is much higher.  I think the distinction is somewhat artificial, based on state by state quirks.  For example, I always voted Dem but only recently had my party registration reflect Dem (was always unstated or independent).

My instinct tells me something like 40% of the eligibles will vote in NC.  That feels about right.  Voter registration is 3.8M and counting with a couple days and official tallies still to tabulate.  I am going to expect roughly 1.5M-1.6M in NC for now, which means I am recanting my prediction in an earlier diary that NC will exceed PA.

Finally, here's a range chart of PA turnout and popular vote margin.  Sorry it's so small, here's a link to a well-sized googlesheets view:

Random Thoughts:
1. Jon Corzine was trying to create a Corzine Club like the Pelosi Club, but the media interpreted his gambit as possibly bailing on Clinton.  Since he was trying to establish popular vote (and he is an absurd person who thinks 0 votes for Obama in Michigan is a legit result), as a justified principle for supers to rally around, I enjoyed the laughable failure of his effort.  In his dismay that such a club was not established, he even wrote a blog at Huffington Post insisting he wasn't vacillating on Clinton.

2. The whole popular vote in the primary compared to the popular vote in the general is dishonest.  New York has more Dems than Texas, yet Texas gets a million votes more say in who the Dem nominee is because it arbitrarily opens its primary to independents and Republicans?    You cannot get this discrepancy in the general.

3. It's also dishonest because had popular vote been the rule, Obama would have spent far more than 1.5 days in California.  Hell, none of the candidates would have campaigned in Iowa, they'd have all been in big states from the beginning of 2007 since only individual voters overall would matter, not delegates.

4. It's also dishonest because it assumes caucus states like Minnesota (which has 72 delegates) would have purposely taken 1/4 of the voice of Missouri (also 72 delegates) in determining the nominee by choosing the caucus method to dilute their voice into near-nothingness.  Missouri had about 823,000 and Minnesota 214,000 turnout.  In the general election, a vote equals a vote equals a vote because every person voting for president is voting for the same main candidates.

5. Sean Wilentz' ridiculous tripe is wonderfully obliterated by Jon Chait.  The main point?  Obama is winning the popular vote, yet Wilentz thinks it would be more "democratic" to change the system so that the person losing the popular vote is winning the delegates.

Originally posted to PocketNines on Thu Apr 10, 2008 at 09:32 PM PDT.


Predict PA Turnout %age of Registered Dems

4%6 votes
1%2 votes
0%1 votes
4%6 votes
3%4 votes
1%2 votes
6%8 votes
3%4 votes
9%12 votes
10%14 votes
6%9 votes
7%10 votes
2%3 votes
9%12 votes
29%39 votes

| 132 votes | Vote | Results

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