NASHVILLE — Overall numbers of Hamilton County voters who cast early ballots in the upcoming Super Tuesday presidential primary dropped slightly from 2016, but local Democrats' turnout soared nearly 50% and actually topped the total number of GOP voters in the Republican county, state figures show.
It was much the same story for the entire state, albeit not quite as dramatic, during the Feb. 12-25 voting period as candidates in the crowded and fiercely competitive Democratic presidential field swooped into the state and so far have spent $10.5 million on broadcast TV, cable, radio and internet advertising, according to Advertising Analytics.
In Hamilton County, 10,165 Democrats cast ballots in their primary, according to Tennessee Secretary of State figures. Those votes represent a 49.92% jump over 2016 when just 6,785 showed up.
Meanwhile, only 7,738 Republicans cast early votes this year, compared to 11,424 who did when then-GOP candidate Donald Trump was battling a multi-candidate field four years ago. This cycle, now-President Trump faces token opposition in the GOP primary. GOP voting dropped by 32.27% in the county.
Total early voting in Hamilton County broke down to about 56.77% for Democrats and 43.22% for Republicans. Overall, early voting in the county was down 1.68% in Hamilton over 2016.
Statewide, Democratic early voting turnout in all 95 Tennessee counties rose by 41,073 or 31.99%, going from 128,374 four years ago to 169,447 this February. Republicans saw a big 90,191-person fall off in early voting, a 35.07% drop, going from 257,209 in 2016 to 167,018 this month.
"After four years of a Donald Trump presidency, Tennessee Democrats are fired up to vote for our strong field of candidates," Tennessee Democratic Party Chairwoman Mary Mancini said. "As we head into Super Tuesday, there is a lot of excitement and people cannot cast their Democratic vote fast enough."
Not so fast, said Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Scott Golden, who pointed to early voting drops among state GOP voters during then-Republican President George W. Bush's 2004 re-election effort as well as among state Democrats in 2012 for then-Democratic President Barack Obama's re-election primary here.
Golden said Trump will trounce whoever emerges as the Democratic nominee in Tennessee come November. In a state that then-Democratic Vice President Al Gore famously lost in his 2000 general election bid for the presidency, Democrats this year have been energized not just by Trump but by Democratic candidates' attention in a state they visit to attend fundraisers.
Billionaire businessman Michael Bloomberg, for example, held a rally in February in Chattanooga and is hitting other cities. Front-runner U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders' wife, Jane Sanders, was in Nashville this week. U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar was also in Nashville. Speaking of Bloomberg, he's behind about three quarters of Democrats' $10.5 million in spending.
Tennessee is among 14 states, including Alabama and North Carolina, with primary elections on Super Tuesday.
In heavily Republican Bradley County, 4,250 GOP voters cast early votes, a 27.95% drop from 2016. Bradley Democrats saw a 41.65% surge with a total of 1,609 casting ballots this year over 2016.
Contact Andy Sher at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-255-0550. Follow him on Twitter @AndySher1.