One of the biggest “known unknowns” of the GOP primary is whether Donald Trump will be able to translate his raucous rally goers into actual votes come election time. There has been rampant speculation about whether those who are the most supportive of the blustery billionaire are 1) registered to vote; 2) registered as Republicans; and/or 3) willing to show up and vote.
While I was up in New Hampshire this past week, Trump detractors were quick to tell me how many Massachusetts license plates they saw in the parking lots at Trump rallies. In a recent dispatch from Iowa, the New York Times reports that while Trump’s backers “say they are confident that” they will bring new, previously disaffected voters out to caucus in February, “state party records indicate only modest gains in the numbers of registered Republicans over recent months, a pattern little different from that in past election years.” The Upshot’s Nate Cohn found that Trump’s strongest voters are “self-identified Republicans who nonetheless are registered as Democrats.” He also found that those who are most likely to support Trump are also the least likely to turn out and vote.
Moreover, no one really knows for sure if the Trump campaign organization is actually actively registering or targeting these supportive potential voters.
In other words, there’s plenty of evidence that those who are most likely to support Trump are either unable or unwilling to get to a polling booth or caucus site.
However, as seen in this chart, in many of the early states a voter doesn’t need to be registered as a Republican to vote in that state’s primary or participate in the caucus. In the case of Iowa, one can register with the party at the time of the vote.
Even so, early states that are “open” to any voter (i.e, Democrats) include some of the deep red states where Trump has strong support like Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Tennessee, and Texas. There’s recent evidence that getting non-traditional Republicans to vote in southern states can work. Witness GOP Mississippi Sen. Thad Cochran who owes his 2014 run-off win to African-American and Democratic voters.
More than 64 percent of all delegates are selected between February 1 and March 31. Of those, just 34 percent (542) are chosen in “closed” primaries where only GOP registered voters can participate. Meanwhile, almost half of total delegates are chosen in states that are open to all registered voters.
|Primary/Caucus Type||Total Number of Delegates Btwn 2/1- 3/31|
Of those 876 delegates available between April 1 and June 7, almost 75 percent (646) are awarded through closed a closed primary.
|Primary/Caucus Type||Total Number of Delegates Btwn 4/1-6/7|
Cook Political Report intern Laura Oxford contributed to this report.