After a lackluster showing in Iowa, Democrats flooded New Hampshire’s polling places. By Tuesday night, it was clear that turnout would surpass the 254,780 votes cast in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary. And on Wednesday, the record 288,672 votes cast in 2008 fell.
According to CNN, when all the votes are counted, at least 295,000 ballots will have been cast in the Democratic primary. That’s good news for Democrats who were closely watching that number after the less-than-eye-popping number of people who attended the Iowa caucuses last week.
A central message of the Bernie Sanders campaign has been that the candidate will swell the voting ranks by inspiring nonvoters and those who rarely cast ballots to show up at the polls. But it appears that the rise in attendance Tuesday night happened mostly in towns not especially friendly to the Vermont senator — though he did manage to prevail over his moderate rivals.
Only 176,000 showed up in Iowa last week, a slight uptick from 2016, but far below the 238,000 who caucused in 2008. Turnout in Iowa also fell far short of some of the loftiest expectations of the top campaigns, which were estimating a possible turnout of 300,000, according to the Times.
The numbers out of Iowa had the Trump campaign celebrating — “None of the Democrats running for president are inspiring voters,” the Trump War Room tweeted — and Democrats wringing their hands. New Hampshire’s turnout will slow some of that anxiety ahead of a general election in which Democrats are hoping massive turnout will help defeat President Trump.
While the numbers in New Hampshire are promising for Democrats, it is worth noting that the first-in-the-nation primary allows voters registered with neither party to vote in whichever primary they choose. With an uncompetitive primary on the Republican side, independent voters were free to vote in the Democratic primary.
Another caveat, as noted by FiveThirtyEight: In 2020, New Hampshire has around 89,000 more eligible voters than it did 12 years ago. That means 26 percent of eligible voters cast a ballot in a primary this year, compared to 29 percent in the opening contest between Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John Edwards in 2008.