One of the keys to the 2010 midterms was the Republicans' "enthusiasm gap" -- the GOP thrived in part because Republican voters were so engaged and excited about the election. As late as the fall, Democrats still looked strong in congressional polling among registered voters, but Republicans led among likely voters.
Nearly two years later, the picture has changed.
The enthusiasm gap is back for 2012...but now it's working to the Democrats' advantage. PPP's last national poll, conducted on behalf of Daily Kos and SEIU, finds that 57% of Democrats are 'very excited' about voting this fall compared to only 46% of Republicans. We've found Democrats more excited about voting than Republicans on every poll we've done this year, but that's the widest gap yet. [...]The enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans has gotten progressively wider in 4 of the last 5 poll where we've asked about it this year. It seems that the longer the GOP nomination process drags on the wider that gap gets.
As I'm wont to do, I put together a chart showing the Dems' advantage on this over the last few months.
Note that the percentages and margins vary from poll to poll, but in each instance, the Democratic advantage is evident, and with time, growing.
For the record, I'd be surprised if this continues through the summer and early fall. Republicans aren't fully on board with Mitt Romney now, and their lack of trust in the frontrunner may manifest itself in limited enthusiasm, but once he's the official nominee and the party gathers for its convention, the GOP will very likely get in line. Excitement from the base naturally follows.
But as it relates to the general election, that may not be enough. The key here is not just that Republicans appear lackadaisical, but also that Democratic voters have recaptured some of the excitement that was gone a couple of years ago. As the Public Policy Polling analysis concluded, "Unlike in 2010 the Democratic base is fired up and ready to go."
A lot can and will happen between now and November, but the fact that the GOP primary race has done more to inspire Democrats than Republicans is no doubt what President Obama's campaign team was hoping for.