Early election reports tended to understate, slightly, Mitt Romney’s victory in New Hampshire. The reason: Romney’s strongest support is in the vote-rich towns down along and near the border of New Hampshire, as was the case in the 2008 primary. Then, for example, his biggest percentages, 45%, were in the border towns of Salem (home of Romney backer former Governor John Sununu) and Windham. They’re apparently reporting late, as there are a lot more votes to count in these one-precinct towns than in most other cities, towns, plantations and gores (they actually have some) in New Hampshire. So Romney’s percentage in the Associated Press returns, with as I write 86% of the votes in, has crept up from 36% earlier in the evening to 39%. Extrapolating from earlier returns, it seemed unlikely that Romney could equal the 75,675 votes he won in New Hampshire in 2008, much less John McCain’s winning 88,713 votes. But with 89% of precincts in, Romney is up to 86,356 and seems certain to overtake the McCain total.
Total turnout, with 89% of precincts in, is 220,962, lower than the 2008 total turnout of 239,793. Extrapolating from those numbers we get a turnout figure of 248,272, just 4% larger than 2008 turnout—a very close match with the 3% increase in Republican turnout in the Iowa caucuses from 2008 to 2012. Subtracting the Ron Paul voters—very many of whom do not identify as Republicans and who cannot be considered reliable supporters of the Republican nominee—that represents a smaller non-Paul Republican turnout in both Iowa and New Hampshire. This is something Republicans should be concerned about, in my view; it suggests a lower level of enthusiasm than in 2008, a year when the balance of enthusiasm worked very much against Republicans. But we have no equivalent turnout metric for Democratic enthusiasm this year; turnout in the Democratic Iowa caucuses or New Hampshire primary in which Barack Obama was essentially unopposed is surely meaningless. Maybe Democratic enthusiasm is even lower than Republican enthusiasm. But that should be no consolation for Republicans.
So while Romney can take pride in getting very close to, if not identical, with 40%, the overall turnout numbers are a caution for Republicans.
UPDATE: with 90% of precincts, turnout is up to 229,598, which extrapolates to a 6% increase in turnout from 2008. But it depends on where the precincts still out are.
FURTHER UPDATE: WIth 92% of precincts reporting, Romney's percentage is up to 39.3%. He may still hit (rounded off) 40%.