A sign greets voters before they step up to cast their ballot at a polling site, Tuesday, July 22, 2014, in Atlanta.
David Goldman/AP Photo

How to fix an enthusiasm gap

The Pew Research Center published an interesting poll on the 2014 midterms, which offered a little good news for both parties. But there was one major takeaway that will be of particular significance between now and Election Day.
On the generic congressional ballot, Democrats enjoy a slight edge, 47% to 45%. But as we know, that’s not as important as turnout – the parties were fairly close on the generic ballot in 2010, too, right before Republicans gained 63 House seats and took the majority.
And that’s where the results get interesting. Pew found greater Republican enthusiasm about the elections, but the advantage over Democrats is much smaller than four years ago.
What’s more, there’s still time for Democratic leaders to get their voters in the game – a point that does not appear to be lost on the party’s major players.
“I think Speaker Boehner, by going down the path of this lawsuit, has opened the door to impeachment sometime in the future,” White House senior adviser Dan Pfeiffer said at a Washington breakfast [this morning] hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.
Pfeiffer said the lawsuit won’t deter Obama’s efforts to act via executive authority where Congress won’t. He predicted that the president’s upcoming executive actions on immigration (which are expected to involve slowing deportations) will “certainly up the likelihood that they’ll contemplate impeachment.”
Much of this, to be sure, likely reflects Pfeiffer’s genuine assessment of the political landscape.
But at least some of this is also intended for a Democratic base – the more the Republican impeachment crusade is part of the national conversation, the more likely Democratic voters will be inclined to get engaged in the 2014 midterms.
Indeed, that’s not speculative; there’s some quantifiable evidence to back this up.
While the uptick in impeachment is making many in the GOP uneasy, some Democrats see an opportunity to motivate parts of their base coalition that are notoriously disengaged from politics during non-presidential election years and don’t show up at the polls.
Democrats say that the impeachment chatter, plus a recent lawsuit filed against Obama by House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), have already proved a major fundraising boon for the party.
Mother Jones’ David Corn said on the show last night, after House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) first announced his anti-Obama lawsuit, it produced “the biggest, most successful online fund-raising day in the history of the” Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. which supports House Democratic candidates.
The more Republicans talk about impeachment, the more it helps Democrats. The more Republicans talk up their anti-Obama lawsuit, the more it helps Democrats.
Indeed, as we talked about last week, what’s the GOP message been of late? Opposition to contraception, opposition to immigration, presidential impeachment, Dick Cheney maintaining a near-constant media presence, and a vow to take families’ health care benefits away
This certainly doesn’t guarantee that Dems will show up this fall, but it’s hard to imagine what more motivation the party’s base would need to get engaged in a midterm cycle.