When they talk about turnout, listen up.
With a contest as close as the expected choice between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney — registered voters are split 46 percent for Obama, 45 percent for Romney in the newest Gallup Poll tracking — turning out voters will be a game-changer.
Look at Florida, one of the states either candidate would love to put at the top of his swing-state trophy shelves. The Sunshine State chose Obama by a margin of under 3 percent in 2008. (Florida chose Republican George W. Bush over Democrat Al Gore by a disputed 537 votes in 2000.)
The Census Bureau offers a look today at the importance of voter turnout with an online tool enabling viewers to compare the registration and turnouts of all the states over the past couple decades.
In Florida, it shows that the share of people registered to vote did not change much from 1996 to 2008. But the percentage of people voting in 2008, when Obama won, was greater than the percentage voting in 1996 and 2000, when Republicans carried the state.
It also shows that over half those between the ages of 18 and 29 turned out to vote in 2008 — the youth-vote a critical element of Obama’s success that year.
In the next election cycle, the 2010 mid-terms, the Census reports, only 23 percent of those 18 to 24 years old voted — while 59 percent of those 65 and older voted.
The Obama campaign will attempt to replay the 2008 model in Florida.
The Romney campaign will be happier with 2010 all over again.
See the stats, state by state, at the Census Bureau’s “Voting Hot Report.”