Turnout is always low in primaries, normally held on the first Tuesday in June. In the last competitive Democratic Senate primary, 2008 when Congressman Rob Andrews challenged incumbent Senator Frank Lautenberg because he was too old, approximately 325,000 New Jersey Democrats voted. About 159,000 Republicans voted in the 2008 Senate primary between former Congressman Richard Zimmer and State Senator Joseph Pennacchio.
Voter turnout was always expected to be low for today’s primaries being held on the second Tuesday in August. The polls indicate that Newark Mayor Cory Booker will easily win the Democratic primary and that former Bogota Mayor Steve Lonegan is essentially unopposed in the Republican primary. But no one has a historical model by which to predict voter turnout on the second Tuesday in August.
That’s why Congressman Frank Pallone has been running hard like he doesn’t believe, or care about the polls. Pallone told MSNBC last week that the turnout will be very low, that the polls don’t mean very much at this point, and that he has a strong field operation to get his supporters to the polls.
In the last day of the primary campaign, Booker had Eva Longoria on his bus, Congressman Rush Holt went on The Colbert Report, Assembly Speaker Sheila Oliver picked up the last minute endorsement of the Woman Political Caucus of NJ, and Pallone rented a fleet of vans to take voters to the polls.
Rainy weather is likely to suppress turnout. The National Weather Service in Mt. Holly says it will rain throughout New Jersey for most of the day. Flash Flood warnings are issued for much of the state. Pallone is scrambling for boats.
The only good thing about a rain suppressed turnout for Booker is the possibility that the turnout will be so low that vote by mail ballots make the difference. Monmouth University Pollster Patrick Murray reported last week that there are 13,000 vote by mail ballots out in Camden County. That is an extraordinarily high number, considering that in last year’s presidential election, when voter turnout is always the highest, there were 16,525 mail ballots cast in Camden, 7.3% of the total vote in the county. In the 2008 Lautenberg-Andrews primary, less than 36,000 total votes were cast in Camden. 29,000 + for hometown Andrews and 5,995 for Lautenberg. Camden Democratic Boss George Norcross supports Booker. If 13,000 votes have already been cast for Booker in Camden, that could be the difference in the primary election.
MMM predicts that less than 150,000 will vote in the Democratic primary and the final result will not be known until the Camden mail in ballots are counted.
In the Republican primary, less than 80,000 will vote. Steve Lonegan will prevail over Dr. Alieta Eck by a wide margin.