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Democrats hold overall turnout edge in competitive House races

John McCormick, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

CHICAGO -- Democrats turned out more voters overall than Republicans in 14 of the most competitive congressional districts that have had primaries so far, signaling the eagerness of the party's base to confront Donald Trump in the first midterm election of his presidency.

While the turnout numbers are positive for the party, they don't indicate a decisive edge in the November congressional elections that will determine whether Democrats gain a majority in the House.

The advantage also isn't spread evenly. Democrats tallied more total votes than Republicans in just half of the 14 the districts, and they'll need to win in many of those places to gain at least 23 U.S. House seats to take control of the chamber.

Expectations have been high for Democrats as the intensity of dissatisfaction with the president among the party's core voters has boosted candidate recruitment and fundraising. Added to that are historical trends that point to losses for the party in power in between presidential election years.

Unofficial vote totals from the still-unfinished primary season show Democrats received about 806,000 votes in the 14 districts, while Republicans won about 727,000, according to a Bloomberg News tally. That's roughly 52.6 percent for Democrats and 47.4 percent for GOP candidates.

The districts reviewed are among 24 ranked by the nonpartisan Cook Political Report as tossups in November's election and where primaries had been held through June 26. Two in New York and one in Virginia weren't included because vote totals for uncontested candidates weren't reported, making the statistical comparison impossible.

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While primary contests aren't necessarily a predictor of what will happen in a general election, they can reveal pockets of strengths for candidates and voter motivation.

Rob Stutzman, a GOP strategist based in California, said party turnout advantage for House primaries has been a "mixed bag" so far nationally, even as he acknowledged Democrats seem more excited about the election.

"I think Democrats have an enthusiasm edge for sure," he said.

John Lapp, a strategist who served as executive director of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee when his party picked up 31 House seats and won control of the U.S. House in 2006, said he sees a "surge in turnout" in the primaries and thinks Democrats are positioned more favorably now than then.

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