Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Why aren't primary upsets more common?

I don't get why incumbents have such an advantage in low-turnout primaries. You would think, for example, that (to pick the example that got me thinking about this) supporters of Andrew Cuomo would be pretty complacent going into the primary and probably would not show up to vote. Meanwhile, all the liberals who are pissed off at how Cuomo has sold them out again and again during their administration would be chomping at the bit at the chance to vote for Zephyr Teachout. So even if a clear majority of Democrats preferred Cuomo over Teachout, I would think that the passion that would drive voter turnout in an off-year primary would ultimately decide the race.

But that's not how it works most of the time. Upsets do happen, but they are still really rare. Why not? I mean, if I were a Cuomo supporters (and a New Yorker), I would be a lot less motivated to vote than if I were a Teachout supporter and enthusiasm is supposedly the primary motivating factor that gets people to the polls. Do that many people really show up to vote for the status quo that they are generally okay with?