Continuing a trend in the Republican primaries, turnout in Illinois last night was low, by some accounts, the lowest since World War II. One reason may be, as David Axelrod said, the constant barrage of negative advertising. Studies have shown that negative advertising suppresses turnout, which is kind of a “duh.”
But in watching the speeches last night from Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney, I was struck by how flat and even dead the rooms seemed for both candidates. I have been in countless election night rooms for winners and losers, and you get a feel for the enthusiasm levels. I remember the room the night Al Gore won the New Hampshire primary in 2000. It literally rocked with energy. And, of course, we all remember the kinds of delirious crowds that built as Obamania swept the country in 2008.
I wonder why the passion isn’t there for these Republicans and what it means for November, maybe nothing. I can hear my friend, Ed, say that there’s nothing like Obama to cure the turnout torpor. Maybe. But I also think something else is afoot. The speeches last night also seemed flat. All the oldie-but-goody lines were there about Obamacare and tax cuts and getting rid of regulations and restoring “freedom.” But they seemed more old than good. It’s probably too much to hope for, but could Republicans, despite their antipathy towards Obama, be awakening to the fact that their candidates have only washed-up bromides to offer? Nah.