The story shaping up for the 2009 elections might be Republican vote intensity.
We witnessed this Republican enthusiasm last week in the Albuquerque mayor’s race. It is one thing to say polling indicates we could have a high Republican turnout election. It is quite another to see it work first-hand. In Albuquerque, Republicans were just chomping at the bit to cast their ballot.
Our firm conducted research and played a key advisory role to the successful campaign of newly elected Mayor Richard “R.J.” Berry.
In a city where Democrats crush Republicans in registration, the number of Republicans who voted absentee in the city election actually surpassed Democrats. Of the absentee ballots cast in this election, 49% were sent in by Republicans, 44% by Democrats, and 7% by other. Republican party registration in the city is just 32% — that means a 17% overperformance in the return of absentee ballots.
Republicans also outperformed their registration in early in-person voting, comprising 39% of the total votes cast, which is a good showing considering Democrats had rigged early voting so that three of the four early voting sites were in heavily Democratic areas of town, and none near Republican strongholds. One site was actually in City Hall, the Democrat bastion for the last three decades and home to three-term Democrat mayor Martin Chavez who was running for re-election (again).
The message was clear … Republicans wanted to get their votes in, and the sooner the better.
So, can we say that the election was about Obama and Republican furor at runaway government? Well, the “Obama” name was never used in any direct way in the Berry for Mayor campaign. But themes of the government growth and wasteful spending were at the heart of the mayoral campaign. Nothing ticks off Republicans (and Independents for that matter) more than government run amok. Voters witness it on the federal level, and it fans the flames in local elections.
Granted, there are several unique features of the Albuquerque mayor’s race that created an environment for a Republican to be elected. But, Richard Berry won 44% of the vote in a three-way race in a heavily Democratic city. Local commentators and pundits gave Berry little chance to even get in a run-off, much less win the election outright. The campaign worked for their votes in this election … they chased votes, made phone calls, implored voters to cast their ballot. But, 44% of the vote and erasing the significant Democrat registration advantage signals something else … a powerful Republican force is at work this year.
Look for it in Virginia to be sure, and for the force to carry into 2010.