Mixed Messages in the Early Voting

There has been some barely perceptible movement recently in Beto O’Rourke’s polling numbers which is causing some people to hope that an upset of Ted Cruz is in the works. The counter to that is that Sen. Cruz is pretty consistently reaching or topping 50 percent in the polls, including the Quinnipiac survey that came out today.  There are very few undecided voters in Texas, apparently, so it’s going to be hard for O’Rourke to gain the remaining ground he needs to cover.

Yet, a look at the early vote in Texas provides at least a defensible reason to believe that the polls may not be modeling the electorate correctly, as the youth vote is absurdly high and Latinos are showing up in greater numbers than whites.

A 508 percent increase in voter turnout among the under-30 crowd is a clear indication that O’Rourke has captured the attention of a generational cohort that normally does not pay attention in non-presidential years.  As for the Latino vote, it’s unclear how strongly they’ll prefer O’Rourke but he surely will benefit at least a little if they exceed their past participation levels.

There are some mixed messages in the early voting from other states. In North Carolina, younger voters are turning out at close to the same rate they did in the 2016 presidential race, and that’s good news for the Democrats.

In Florida, the Republicans are maintaining a stubborn lead in the early vote that should concern the Democratic Party.

In Nevada, things look as tight as a tick, but the Democrats are doing surprisingly well in Reno (Washoe County), and that may be enough to carry their statewide candidates over the top.

In all these cases, the results are based on party registration, so it matters a great deal whether there’s a differential in how many crossover votes there are, and it also could be critical who wins with non-affiliated voters.

While it’s true that the Democrats normally suffer in midterms because they have more low-propensity voters, that does not automatically mean that unusually high turnout this year will help them. In a red state, if we have presidential turnout numbers that will probably mean the Republican candidate will win. A Democrat has a better chance of winning in a red state when they can take advantage of a big differential in voter enthusiasm, so it doesn’t help if everyone turns out. Still, one way they could pull off some stunning upsets in places like Texas and Tennessee even in a very high turnout election is if the shape of the electorate is significantly different than it has been in the past. In Texas, much higher youth turnout and Latinos turning out at a higher rate than whites might accomplish this.

In Tennessee, turnout is certainly running high:

We’ll have to see if the shape of that electorate favors the Democrats.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.