For all the excitement around Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign, that didn't translate into large numbers of voters turning out Tuesday night. Yes, Sanders came from behind and defied the polls to win Indiana, but the state's primary turnout was about half of what it was in 2008. That year, Clinton won the state, and took home more votes than the total turnout this year. Overall, though, voting was up. More than 1.7 million voted in the Indiana primaries Tuesday — about a 4-percent increase over 2008. You can thank the Republicans for that.
The Democrat turnout was abysmal. Nearly 1.3 million Democrats voted in 2008 in Indiana. This year, it was just over 637,000 total. In 2008, Clinton alone took home nearly 642,000 votes. So perhaps the Sanders win — at least in Indiana — has more to do with Clinton voters staying home. He won by less than 32,000 votes. Polls showed that Clinton had a comfortable margin, and the larger narrative in the news media is that she has essentially clinched the nomination, even if she still needs to pick up more delegates before it becomes official.
More than 63 percent of the votes cast Tuesday were in the Republican race, following nationwide trends and signaling that Indiana could be a difficult state for Democrats to win in 2016. Despite the decrease in Democratic turnout nationwide this primary season, there have still been bright spots in left-leaning states, like those that voted in the Acela primaries last week. They saw more Democrats voting than Republicans. Not so in the Crossroads of America.
Compared to 2008, the GOP vote was way, way up, with nearly three times as many voting. There were 1.1 million Republican votes cast Tuesday night, compared to just over 410,000 in 2008. The votes for Donald Trump alone obliterated the past figure. More than 589,000 Indianans voted for him. Ted Cruz's second-place finish with just over 405,000 might help explain his decision to drop out.
Now that the GOP race is essentially decided, it will be interesting to see if the turnout stays as high. Trump could now face the same problem that Hillary has if the media paints his nomination as a foregone conclusion. Perhaps Sanders can motivate his followers to turn out in the remaining primaries now that he's won another state. It still seems to be inconsequential in the final delegate count, but you never know.