Who votes depends on a series of factors. Is it a general election or a primary? Is it a presidential election year or an off year? In a presidential election year, many more voters come out to vote because, first, there is of course a great deal more at stake. Second, because the stakes are so much higher than in a non-presidential year, the media coverage is much greater. That additional coverage provides voters with more information and misinformation with which to choose a candidate.
In a primary election, voting along party lines has no relevance since all of the candidates are of the same party. Accordingly, the motivation for coming out to vote in a primary election is almost completely based on knowing the candidates and being inspired enough to want to support one candidate over the others.
Voting in a primary, therefore, is not usually as motivating as is voting to choose a presidential candidate in a general presidential election since the differences between the candidates would almost certainly, as is the case in 2016, be greater in a general election.
So who, then, will be voting in the upcoming 2016 primary and general elections? Let’s look at three specific offices that impact Montgomery County directly: President, Senator, and the District 8 Congressional seat.
In the Democratic primary the decision is between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders and in the Republican primary the decision is down to, as of this writing, Trump, Cruz, Rubio and Kasich. There will be voter turnout, but the real drama regarding the nominees will not occur until after the nominating conventions. One would have to assume that the two Democrat camps will come together in an effort to defeat the Republican candidate.
Where it gets highly interesting is with the Republicans. If Trump leads in delegates, but does not have the required 1237 for the nomination, will the Republicans at the convention be able to close him out and bestow the nomination on someone more to their liking? This is a question of the utmost importance because such an action could very likely result in Trump supporters boycotting the November election in protest. If the Republicans have any chance at all to retake the White House and hold on to the Senate, they will need every Republican vote out there.
The Senate and Congressional races bring with them a different set of factors. In both Montgomery County and in Maryland, it is fair to say that a Democrat candidate has an almost insurmountable advantage. The only thing in Maryland that could result in a Republican defeating a Democrat is if the Democrat candidate runs such a weak campaign that even Democrats have no choice but to vote for the Republican – see 2014 Maryland gubernatorial election. So let’s look at these two races from the Democrat standpoint and focus on the upcoming primary.
The Senate race is between Congressman Chris Van Hollen and Congresswoman Donna Edwards. So, who votes? Once again it will come down to which of these candidates inspires voters to come out in a primary election and feel strongly enough to support one candidate over the other.
Congressman Van Hollen has been one of the loudest voices against Republican obstructionism and, as a result, attained a great deal of visibility with the public. His legislative record includes crafting bills to combat global warming, bring transparency to campaign financing and a host of other bills to address issues facing the middle and lower income classes. As the ranking member on the House Budget Committee, he has been at the forefront in combating Republican attempts at defunding critical government programs and efforts to shut down the federal government altogether.
Accordingly, he has developed a massive grassroots following and a large contingency of voters who will make it to the polls to vote in the primary.
The campaign of Congresswoman Edwards has focused to a great extent on the need to fill Senator Mikulski’s senate seat with a female. There clearly is a need to have more diversity in Congress, and I have no doubt that Congresswoman Edwards would stand up for woman’s rights considerably better than other female Congresswomen such as former Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann or current female Senators Kelly Ayotte or Joanie Ernst have done. How effective she is in convincing voters that her efforts on behalf of women exceed those same efforts by Congressman Van Hollen will be determinative in her ability to motivate voters to come out for her in the primary.
Congresswoman Edwards, as an African American, may also inspire that community to vote in the primary. It should be remembered, however, that that constituency had shown in the gubernatorial election that they value ability and accomplishment over “looking like me”. You have to have a stronger message than that to inspire voters to come out and vote, especially in a primary. Accordingly, it is my expectation that Chris Van Hollen will be our next Senator.
As for the Congressional seat in District 8, here, too, people come out to vote in a primary because they know the candidate and the experience and accomplishments demonstrated over a period of time. A glut of television ads leading up to the primary do not take the place of a record built up over a period of time. Name recognition is important, but the name needs to be recognized for a reason that voters can relate to, a reason strong enough to motivate people to come out to vote for the individual. In this particular primary election, it is very possible that the two candidates with the most TV ads may cancel each other out and the candidate with the most legislative experience may come out on top. If that turns out to be the case, my expectation is that Senator Jamie Raskin will be the nominee.
Think of the presidential campaign of neurosurgeon Ben Carson who based his entire campaign on having no legislative or executive experience in government. I wonder how many of his patients would have opted for him as their surgeon if he boasted that he had no surgical experience. Using experience to accomplish results matters, or at least should when deciding on for whom to vote.