I showed up a few minutes early yesterday to pick up Adorable Child from a birthday party, and as has happened with nearly every adult encounter in the last week, another parent and I began talking about the primary election. While people eddied about us (including an entire family decked out in Obama t-shirts), our dialogue ran along now-familiar lines: he watched the Democratic debate in Austin last week; he still isn’t sure he’s fully informed; he’s leaning toward Obama.
Having these conversations is odd in its own right; I can’t remember ever talking with strangers about politics prior to now. More strange, though, is that nearly every person I’ve talked with has turned out to be a Republican who is a) not impressed with their candidate choices, and b) thinking of asking for a Democratic ballot in this primary.
I’m seeing this everywhere, from my own household to Texas bloggers… and many of them (though not all) sound like this (from the Houston Chronicle):
Michael Jones, a 39-year-old self-described conservative Republican who is involved in marketing, said he will cast his vote for Obama in the primary “so Hillary gets out.”
But he isn’t enamored of Obama, a first-term senator whose experience has come under fire from both Clinton and McCain.
“I just wish he would get some substance,” Jones said. Yet Jones said he is undecided about the general election because he doesn’t like McCain, whom he described as “just another Washington senator.”
Not exactly a ringing endorsement — for anyone — but my overall impression is that both McCain and Clinton are in trouble down here.
In my own neighborhood, I’ve seen only one yard sign… and it’s for Mike Huckabee. Similarly, although the early voting location near me is plastered with campaign signs for various candidates, there are none for McCain. And when I posted about that yesterday, the only commenter said, “How can one possibly get excited by a candidate who is soon to be an octogenarian, for crying out loud!”
Yet there’s something more than Republican apathy and anti-Clintonitis going on here in my crimson corner of Texas… because while Fort Bend County includes CD22 (the former seat of Tom Delay), and CD14 (Ron Paul’s district), we have this (from Fort Bend Now, our local online news):
In a county known as a bastion of GOP conservatism, more than twice as many Democrats have cast ballots in early voting so far than Republicans. […]
According to early voting totals compiled by the Fort Bend County Elections Administration, 7,563 people had cast ballots in the Democratic primary as of the end of the day Friday, while just 3,677 did so in the Republican primary.
That represents a major reversal from March 2006 primary numbers, when 9,101 Fort Bend County residents cast early ballots in the Republican primary, while a scant 1,619 cast ballots in the Democratic primary.
Major reversal indeed.
For a wide variety of reasons, it seems that people are highly motivated to participate in this primary. They’ve been energized enough to have conversations, watch the debates, do the research… and most importantly, to vote.
And many of them are voting as Democrats.
It probably won’t make much of a difference for McCain, but if it’s true that Hillary must win both Texas and Ohio to stay in the nomination race, then judging from activity in my neck of the woods, she’s in even bigger trouble than recent polls indicate.
(Cross-posted to The Moderate Voice)