WHILE THE primaries are a fading image in the rear-view mirror and the chosen candidates are fully immersed in their general election stumping, there are still some interesting lessons to be learned from the results of those primary contests.
Turnout for this year’s primary saw 304,671 ballots cast, including absentee ballots and in-person votes. This was a record-breaking level of participation, exceeding what was a record turnout in the primaries just two years ago.
Last April, the Secretary of State and the Attorney General issued a voting guidance that allowed concerns regarding COVID-19 as a legitimate reason to request an absentee ballot. As a result, we saw a significant increase, with 90,322 Granite Staters voting absentee. Three-quarters of those ballots were cast by Democrats.
All of which opens an interesting window as we look ahead toward Election Day in November. National polls show that Democratic voters consistently express more concern about in-person voting than Republicans, stating apprehension about the coronavirus as a primary concern.
Elderly voters are also highly influenced by fear of the contagious disease in their choice to vote absentee. Unease about the disease is also impacting the ability of towns to recruit enough poll workers, who are generally older, a challenge that is being confronted across the country. Without enough poll workers, lines to vote are longer and, in some cases, there are fewer polling stations open.
These two data points – increased voter participation and COVID concern – are inextricably intertwined. Alarm about COVID-19 — spikes that seem to travel from one state to another, and the continued dishonesty from the president about its severity – fuels a nationwide intensity when it comes to voting this year.
All of which leads us to the biggest political story of the past seven days – the release of taped interviews between President Trump and investigative reporter, Bob Woodward. Woodward interviewed Trump 18 times for his book, “Rage,” and the tapes are damning.
Trump is heard repeatedly discussing the danger of the coronavirus, calling it deadlier than the flu, acknowledging that it was extremely contagious, and admitting that he “likes to play it down.” Throughout the same time, he was telling the American people that the virus was contained and that it would disappear “like a miracle.”
Anxiety about the pandemic remains the most influential issue among voters as we move ever nearer election day. Early voting will start soon in some states. College campuses are reporting thousands of infections among students, and businesses are creating contingency plans for the possibility of winter COVID resurgence.
It’s a toxic brew for Republicans. Tied to the President’s coattails whether they like it or not, they will be forced to spend the general election answering to the President’s lies and the inexcusable loss of life that came as a result. There is no room in the Republican party anymore for a candidate who speaks up against a dangerous and divisive president. And the level of voter intensity is hitting new peaks.
In New Hampshire, the only Republican who may be able to rise above the Trump anchor is Gov. Chris Sununu. His 130,515 votes included a lot of Democratic write-ins and he continues to poll extraordinarily high among Independents and Democrats.
Between the president’s lies caught on tape, the continued spread of the disease, and the acute anxiety among voters about the continued dangers of COVID, it doesn’t bode well for the rest of the ticket.