Who’s going to show up? That’s the question everyone will be trying to answer from now until the May 29th primary, now that Rick Santorum has dropped his bid for the GOP nomination for President. As far as the overall race for the GOP Presidential nomination goes, little has changed. Despite the Texas GOP’s possible rules change, even if Santorum stayed in the race and won Texas, Rommey was still likely be the GOP nominee. What it does effect is all the other races on the ballot in Texas.
Turnout in a presidential year primary with the race still up in the air, can be very high. With the main event over and done with, and the primary the day after a 3-day weekend, turnout is likely to be much lower than it otherwise would have been. The biggest race left on the ballot is the US Senate race to replace Kay Bailey Hutchison. Here’s one take from the traditional media on what Santorum’s exit does to the GOP race to replay Hutchison,Santorum exit probably helps Dewhurst’s Senate foes, but which?
Rick Santorum’s suspension of his campaign may further depress turnout in next month’s Senate GOP primary, as what little sizzle remained in the contest for the Republican presidential nomination just took a blast of cold water.
The Texas battle to succeed retiring U.S. Kay Bailey Hutchison already has been postponed twice. The May 29 date bleeds into some people’s graduation and summer vacation plans, and a Mitt Romney-Santorum showdown in the Lone Star State could have perked up voter interest.
No more. Given that lower turnout generally benefits insurgents, not frontrunners, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst probably reaps no benefit from the Santorum move. The most casual Republican voters are probably the most susceptible to Dewhurst’s expected advertising blitz, but now have less reason to turn out. He is leading in the Senate GOP primary, but has to hope that his three main opponents — Ted Cruz, Craig James and Tom Leppert, in alphabetical order — will divide the opposition. Because even when held in more voter-friendly March, Senate GOP primaries pull between 600,000 and 650,000 voters to the polls in Texas in non-presidential years.
But what are the implications locally, especially in the GOP Primary for District Attorney? While it may be true that lower turnout reduces the advantage of money, it’s also true that win numbers – total votes needed to win a race – change as well. With both Bradley and Duty having name ID and “notoriety” among the GOP base in Williamson County it looks now like whoever can turn out more of their voters on primary day will win. Now that the “casual Republican voter” is no longer an issue.