President Obama won the other primary in New Hampshire last night with 80 percent of the 47,000 votes -- a lower percentage and turnout than Bill Clinton got in 1996. Does it spell doom -- a lack of Democratic enthusiasm, or support in the state? Well, starting from the very micro, Obama's reelection team is counting on winning New Hampshire in several of their five possible paths to 270 electoral votes, so it's not a great sign of strength in the state in the general. But as a measure of basic voter enthusiasm, the turnout in past president's (basically) uncontested New Hampshire primaries has not been a clear predictor:
- 1984: Ronald Reagan got 97 percent of the 65,000 votes cast. Second-place Harold Stassen, a perennial candidate, got 2 percent. Reagan went on to be reelected with almost 59 percent of the vote, with 53 percent of eligible voters voting. Reagan won New Hampshire. But then, he won 48 other states, too.
- 1996: Bill Clinton won with 92 percent of the 90,000 votes cast. Second place was Pat Paulson, who won just 1,007 votes. He was reelected with 49 percent of the vote, and a 49 percent turnout of eligible voters. He won New Hampshire.
- 2004: George W. Bush won with 80 percent of the 67,000 votes cast. Second place went to Richard Bosa, who got 1 percent of the vote. In the general election, he got 50 percent of the vote with almost 57 percent eligible voter turnout. But Bush lost New Hampshire.
- 2012: Barack Obama won 82 percent of the 47,000 votes cast. Environmentalist Ed Cowen got second place with 2 percent, and Vermin Supreme, a "friendly fascist," got 1 percent for third place.
A lack of voter enthusiasm among Democrats was blamed for their losses in the 2010 midterms. But despite a good chance of winning back the White House this year, Republican turnout has been low. There wasn't a huge surge in participation in the Iowa caucuses -- there were 122,000 voters this year, and 119,000 four years ago. In New Hampshire About 240,000 people turned out for the Republican vote -- not a huge turnout, NBC News' First Read says, because it's about the same that Republicans got in 2004 and 2000. Further, Slate's Dave Weigel points out, fewer Republicans are voting. In four years, the percentage of New Hampshire voters who say they're Republican has dropped from 61 percent to 49 percent. Weigel writes, "So in 2008, roughly 143,260 Republicans turned out for their primary. In 2012, with some ballots out, it was 119,050 -- round it up and probably 121,000 or so self-identified Republicans came out." And, he notes despite some Democratic pollsters' campaign to get Hillary Clinton to run in 2012, there were less than 6,000 write-in candidates. Verdict: Obama, while not looking great, is not so doomed, enthusiasm-wise, relative to Republicans.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.