Mitt Romney crushed Newt Gingrich last night in Florida, but Republicans overall may have been less enthusiastic about either candidate. Despite the tremendous amount of media attention the race has received and candidates calling it “the most important election of your lifetime,” turnout was was down in the Sunshine State — and significantly.
In 2008, 1.94 million people voted in Florida’s GOP primary. This year, turnout stood at a little more than 1.66 million voters. All this despite efforts by Republicans to register many more voters in 2010. 1.34 million turned out in the 2000 GOP presidential primary, the last contested one before 2008.
Many observers look at turnout in primaries as a gauge of voters’ enthusiasm for their candidates going forward into the general. The depressed turnout in Florida reflects numerous polls showing Republican voters to be dissatisfied with their current choices and wishing someone else would enter the race — almost 60 percent in a recent CBS poll — even though that’s almost impossible this late in the game. Exit polls in Florida showed 38 percent want “someone else [to] run for the nomination,” while just 51 percent of Romney supporters and just 31 percent of Gingrich supporters said they were “satisfied with the Republican candidates.”