- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Turnout was much stronger among Democrats than among Republicans in yesterday’s Super Tuesday primaries, in large part because of the historic nature of that party’s candidates: Either Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton will become the first woman or Sen. Barack Obama the first black to head a major-party ticket.

But presidential voting analysts said the presence of Mr. Obama contributed more to high turnout than that of Mrs. Clinton.

“I do think if there are going to be any records, it will be on the Democratic side largely due to Obama with African-Americans and young voters and independents,” said Curtis Gans, director of the Committee for the Study of the American Electorate.

Melanie L. Campbell, executive director of the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, said she expects participation among young and black voters to go “through the roof.”

“I would predict a higher turnout, much higher than the last two presidential elections and I think every state will meet or exceed the previous records from 2004 and 2000,” Mrs. Campbell said.

She also said the youth vote is driving up turnout. She noted that in 2000, the interest level of those 30 and younger was about 13 percent; in 2004, it was about 30 percent; but this year, it is at 70 percent. That may be good news for Democrats going into the general election as the Democratic electorate has proved to be younger than Republican primarygoers.

In New Hampshire and South Carolina, the only two primaries in which Mr. Obama participated before yesterday, record turnout was reported among Democratic voters. In New Hampshire, almost 300,000 Democrats and independents participated in the primary, a record. In South Carolina, more than 532,000 voted, shattering the record of 275,000 there in 2004.

In Michigan and Florida, where Mr. Obama did not compete, turnout did not hit a record, except in the area of young voters, most of whom voted undecided.

For Republicans, only Florida has posted record turnout thus far.

“I would expect fewer records [yesterday], and the reason is, in all those other states, you had substantial grass-roots activity; whereas in the Super Tuesday states, it was mostly television and radio ads outreach,” Mr. Gans said.

Several pundits predicted that the weather in New Mexico and the Super Bowl championship parade in New York would hurt turnout. Meanwhile, voters in Virginia, Texas and elsewhere reportedly appeared at schools and other polling sites even though those states were not holding primaries yesterday.

Mr. Gans, who has studied presidential voting patterns for 32 years, said that if Mr. Obama “keeps getting the idealism vote of the young and the young African-American community, there may be a major bump up in the turnout.”

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