Why both parties face hurdles getting out the vote

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The balloons have dropped, the party delegates have spoken, and now it's time for the two major parties to get out the vote.

Based on this year's primary results, the parties are fairly evenly matched. Yet a closer look at the results shows that both parties have their work cut out for them. As President Barack Obama has said repeatedly out on the stump: "Don't boo — vote."

More than 57.6 million people, or some 28.5 percent of estimated eligible voters, voted in this year's Republican and Democratic presidential primaries, according to the Pew Research Center. That was just shy of the record 30.4 percent participation level set in 2008.


For Republicans, the 2016 primary season drew the strongest turnout since at least 1980, according to Pew's analysis.

Democrats saw voter turnout more than double the pace of 2012, with big gains in some key states. Compared with 2012, turnout more than doubled in battleground states Pennsylvania and Ohio.

But that 2012 turnout — following a campaign that saw President Barack Obama comfortably leading GOP challenger Mitt Romney until a few weeks before the election — was the lowest for Democrats since at least 1980, according to the Pew data. (Obama went on to win his second term with 332 electoral votes to Romney's 206.)

The 2012 Democratic turnout for the 2012 nominating process was also lower than for Republicans because in the many states where Obama ran unopposed, the Democrats didn't hold a primary or caucus.

A better comparison, then, would be the 2008 primary season that pitted Obama against the current Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. In most states, the 2016 primary turnout was lower than that hotly contested race.

Republicans are hoping that a strong showing in the 2016 primaries will carry through to the November election, landing Donald Trump in the White House and the party back in power.

At first glance, the optimism seems well-founded. The GOP saw turnout more than double in New York and Virginia, along with big gains in battleground states like Pennsylvania and Ohio.

Compared to 2008, this year's GOP primary season saw substantial gains in critical big states, including Virginia, Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Illinois. Nearly 15 percent of eligible GOP voters turned out this year, up from 11 percent in 2008, according to the Pew data.

But the share of eligible voters fell off after the Indiana primary in May left Trump as the last candidate in the race. In the 29 GOP primaries up to and including Indiana, some 16.6 percent of eligible voters turned out, according to Pew Research. But that was roughly double the rate of the last nine contests when Trump ran virtually uncontested.

Much of the strong early turnout was driven by support for Trump rivals from key states, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Florida Sen. Marc Rubio and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

With endorsements from those three former candidates conspicuously lacking, Trump faces an uphill battle persuading their supporters to vote for the GOP ticket in November.