Republican caucus-goers and primary voters seemed energized early in the year when they outpaced 2008 turnout figures in the early nominating states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
But in this latest round of presidential contests, beginning with Florida late last month, turnout has been down considerably from four years ago.
Just 1.6 million voted in this year’s Florida primary compared with 1.9 million in 2008. Turnout in Nevada’s caucuses last week was down 26% from 2008. Last night’s caucuses in Colorado drew slightly fewer people than they did in 2008, while turnout in Minnesota was down 23%.
It’s likely that many voters in Missouri stayed home because that contest didn’t count, a fact that was widely publicized by the local media. Turnout there was down 58% compared to 2008. (The Missouri GOP will hold its official caucuses next month to comply with party rules.)
The low turnout spells potential trouble for front-runner Mitt Romney, whose candidacy has failed to ignite excitement in Republican ranks.
In all but three states -- New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida -- Romney has failed to gain more votes this year than he did in 2008, despite having spent the last four years readying for this second bid.
In Colorado, where turnout was down 6% compared to 2008, Romney won 45% fewer votes than he won four years ago. In Minnesota, Romney won 69% fewer votes.
Meanwhile, there is only one other candidate in this year’s GOP race who participated in 2008: Texas Rep. Ron Paul.
While Paul’s portion of the vote was, and continues to be, considerably smaller than Romney’s, he has improved his position in every single caucus and primary state thus far.