Kentucky Voter Turnout Numbers Spark Debate

ABC News’ Teddy Davis reports:

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tim Kaine said today that voter turnout numbers in the state of Kentucky were the aspect of Tuesday’s election contests which surprised him the most.

“What surprised me?” said Kaine. “I didn't know this until my wife told me earlier today . . . the Kentucky primary drew more votes for the Democratic loser than for the Republican winner. That would not have been my prediction about that primary given how much it was hyped on the Republican side. And that tells me something about Democratic energy that is a little bit different than what some are saying.”

Kaine made his remarks during the question-and-answer period which followed a lunchtime speech to the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Kaine, a former Virginia governor who was handpicked by President Obama to lead the DNC, used his speech to offer an upbeat assessment of Democratic prospects in November.

The statistic cited by Kaine is correct: Lt. Gov. Daniel Mongiardo – the Democrat who lost the Senate nomination to Attorney General Jack Conway – garnered more votes than did Rand Paul, the Tea Party-backed Republican who won the GOP’s Senate nomination. Mongiardo’s vote total was 221,269; Paul’s vote total was 206,159.

Although the vote total statistic is correct, it is not the whole picture.

Registered Democrats in Kentucky outnumber Republicans by 573,139 voters.

Turnout, as a percentage of registered party voters, was actually higher in the Republican contest than in the Democratic contest, 33.6 percent as compared to 31.8 percent.

An adviser to Paul’s campaign dismissed Kaine’s remarks as “spin by a pretty crafty Democratic leader to make things look rosier for Democrats than they really are.”

“If that surprises Tim Kaine, then he doesn’t know very much about Kentucky politics,” Paul adviser Jesse Benton told ABC News.

“In November, elections in Kentucky come down to independent voters and substantial numbers of registered Democrats who vote Republican in the general election,” said Benton. “Despite having a nearly two-to-one registration advantage for Democrats because of family history, Kentucky went 57-to-41 percent for John McCain over Barack Obama in 2008 and that was a bad cycle for Republicans.”

ABC News’ Rich Braham and Alexander Pepper contributed to this report.

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