Midterm elections typically see lower turnout than presidential years. But, Mitt Romney’s run for U.S. Senate so electrified Republicans in the Beehive State that they turned out in droves to vote for him on Tuesday.
In fact, the number of votes cast in Tuesday’s GOP Senate primary election between Mitt Romney and Mike Kennedy was higher than the combined vote totals from the two statewide primary elections in Utah during 2016, which was a presidential election year.
So far, 302,671 votes have been cast in the race between Romney and Kennedy. In 2016, the votes in the GOP gubernatorial primary between Gary Herbert and Jonathan Johnson combined with the ballots cast in the Democratic U.S. Senate primary between Misty Snow and Jonathan Swinton totaled 295,231.
That’s an incredible turnout, especially for a midterm election year.
Pre-election polls gave Romney a 47-point lead over Kennedy (he ended up with a 50-point win), but members of Team Romney privately worried that big lead would lead to complacency among voters, which might have hurt him at the polls. As we found out, there was nothing to worry about because Republicans were excited to cast their ballot for the former GOP presidential nominee.
Romney’s 217,000 primary votes are more than the number of registered Democratic voters in all of Utah (188,000).
That massive Republican turnout is not only the reason Romney is a heavy favorite to coast to a win in November, but it’s a good omen for down-ballot GOP candidates as well, most notably Rep. Mia Love. Love’s team has insisted that increased turnout for Romney would help her fend off a stiff challenge from Democrat Ben McAdams. Polling shows that race is too close to call, but bringing more Republicans to the polls could be enough to push Love over the finish line.
The massive primary turnout for Romney absolutely swamped Kennedy’s campaign on Tuesday. However, it doesn’t look like Kennedy did much to build on his convention win over Romney and convince many undecided Republicans to vote for him. One longtime Republican operative in Utah describes a principle in politics they call “the 25% rule,” meaning no matter what you say, there’s always 25% of voters who will break the opposite way. “Kennedy only got 25%, which means he didn’t make his case to many voters,” they said incredulously.
Romney’s primary total is nowhere near the 515,000 statewide votes Donald Trump got in 2016. It’s also far below the 760,000 votes Sen. Mike Lee received in his re-election bid that year. But, remember, only registered Republicans could cast a ballot in Tuesday’s election.