So-So Turnout Expected for Virginia's Super Tuesday
Light turnout expected due to slim pickings on ballot.
"I expect a poor turnout. With no real competition, many voters will conclude, 'Why bother?'" said Mark J. Rozell, professor of Public Policy at George Mason University in Fairfax.
Anthony Bedell, chairman of the Fairfax County Republicans, agreed. "Turnout will be very low," he predicted.
Because President George W. Bush (R) went unchallenged in 2004, the last comparable GOP presidential primary race to this year's was in 2000 when Vice President Al Gore went unchallenged for the Democrats. Five Republican candidates, including Bush and John McCain, battled for the GOP nomination.
That year, Virginia saw a 17.28 percent turnout. Participation that year was highest in Virginia's 8th Congressional District and lowest in the state's 9th Congressional District.
In Fairfax County in 2000, of the 544,157 registered voters, 126,234 turned out to vote in the GOP presidential primary, a 23.2 percent turnout, said Elections Chief Cameron Quinn.
In 2008, when there was both a Democratic and Republican primary, turnout was about 11 percent statewide, according to the Virginia State Board of Elections.
"Four years ago, it was 9,500 [voters] roughly…in Arlington in the Republican presidential primary," said Mark Kelly, former chairman of the Arlington County Republican Party. "Of course, the Obama-Clinton primary was going on the same day. There was more attention drawn to it as well. I'm guessing lower (this year), just because it doesn't seem like they (the candidates) are really contesting this."
Kelly estimated Arlington's turnout to be between 5,000 and 6,000 on Super Tuesday.
"I don't think that's going to point to the lack of enthusiasm of Republicans for November," Kelly noted. "It's more of a reflection just of the… lack of overall attention that seems to be paid here. I'd have to assume that turnout is going to be lower."
Potential VP McDonnell Encourages Participation
Gov. Bob McDonnell, who has endorsed frontrunner Mitt Romney and campaigned with him in South Carolina and Florida, asked that voters turn out on Tuesday, in a conference call with reporters on Monday.
"We have two candidates — Ron Paul and our endorsed candidate Gov. Mitt Romney — and while it [the Virginia primary] is one of 10 races that are being held across the country, we obviously think Virginia is a critically important state," McDonnell said.
"It's said to be a swing state," he said. "It was a state that three, four years ago went for Obama and seven years ago went for President Bush so it certainly has the ability for both Democrats and Republicans to win. That's why most people think Virginia will be a very important state in November. We're asking our Republican activists and Independents who want to vote in the Republican primary, to go out and vote tomorrow."
Is McDonnell, who is oft-discussed as a potential running mate with Romney, serving up Virginia's delegates to Romney on a silver platter? University of Virginia Prof. Larry Sabato, in his "Crystal Ball" report, noted Virginia's leaders are Romney supporters and said that Romney will "sweep or nearly sweep" the state and is "guaranteed Virginia" and its 46 delegates up for grabs.
Patch editors Nicole Trifone and Jason Spencer contributed to this report.