There is a difference.
Voters in Missouri do not register by party. As a consequence all primaries are open. That is, when you vote in a primary at your precinct you have to request a party ballot. There is no provision or mechanism for splitting parties by contest in primary voting.
In 1992 there was no presidential primary. I participated in the Missouri Democratic Party presidential candidate caucus in Johnson County. If memory serves me correctly approximately 100 people (probably fewer) attended the caucus in an elementary school in Fayetteville, Missouri, at bend in the road off of Highway 13. The candidates were nominated from the floor of the caucus. They were Bill Clinton, Paul Tsongas, Jerry Brown, and uncommitted. The Tsongas group didn’t have enough people to meet the viability threshold, so they joined the uncommitted group. Again, if I recall correctly, the distribution of the allocated delegates from Johnson County to the Congressional District meeting and the state convention were 3 for Bill Clinton, 2 for “uncommitted” and 1 for Jerry Brown.
Think about that. Approximately 100 people made those decisions.
The Missouri Secretary of State has the statistics of Democratic Party votes by county in presidential primaries from 2000 to the present. The turnout in Johnson County, Missouri over those cycles:
2000 Presidential Primary 1287 votes for Democratic Party candidates
2004 Presidential Primary 2535 votes for Democratic Party candidates
2008 Presidential Primary 4788 votes for Democratic Party candidates
2012 Presidential Primary 289 votes for Democratic Party candidates
2016 Presidential Primary 3433 votes for Democratic Party candidates
There is a difference.
In 2012 Barack Obama was the incumbent – anecdotally, a significant number of Democrats in Johnson County pulled republican ballots in the primary to vote for Rick Santorum for the purpose of messing with Mitt Romney’s presidential candidacy. Rick Santorum (r) won the statewide beauty contest with more than 50% of the vote. The delegates were allocated later – they went to Mitt Romney (r). Note that republican party rules for delegate allocation are different than those of the Democratic Party.
It’s the system we have. Individual states decide to hold a caucus or a primary. The candidates operate in that environment and they know the rules and the processes ahead of time.
When I hear that “super delegates” are inherently “undemocratic” from supporters of one candidate or another I wonder why they aren’t also pointing out the participation rate differences (and the challenges of turnout) in caucuses versus primaries. It’s the system we have, the candidates and voters have to operate in it. If you don’t like it you have four years to get your party and legislature to change it in time for 2020. Just don’t try to tell me in 2016 that the results of a caucus are an indicator of anything other than the views of the people who could show up.
Keep Calm and Carry On.
Keep Calm and Carry On (March 9, 2016)
Keep Calm and Carry On – part 2 (March 16, 2016)