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"Enthusiasm Gap" Closing
Posted by: McQ on Monday, September 08, 2008

Poll numbers come and poll numbers go. McCain/Palin are now enjoying an expected convention bounce which has put them, depending on which poll you consult anywhere from 2 points to 10 points ahead.

But that's going to change as we continue to move toward the election. That means it's a little early to put too much significance in the numbers at this point. If McCain/Palin show the ability to sustain those numbers, well then that's a horse of a different color.

Rather than the numbers about who is ahead at this time, the numbers which interest me most have to do with what I considered the more fundamental problem that the Republicans faces versus the Democrats. Enthusiasm. While John McCain has a compelling biography of sacrifice while in the military, ideologically he has not generated much enthusiasm for his candidacy. The Democrats have been very enthusiastic about their pick.

Enter the game changer: the nomination of Gov. Sarah Palin of Alasaka. Suddenly the right is paying attention, and if the latest Gallup numbers are true, they've found a reason to be enthusiatic about their ticket:
The convention and/or McCain's selection of Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate not only had the effect of moving the horserace needle in McCain's direction, but also increased several measures of enthusiasm for the GOP.

There has been a very substantial jump in the percentage of Republicans saying they are more enthusiastic about voting in this election, from 42% a week ago (after the Democratic convention, but before the Republican convention) to 60% today. Democrats still retain a slight lead on this measure, having increased their enthusiasm slightly this last week as well. But the enthusiasm gap, which has been so much a part of the story of the presidential election so far this year, has dwindled from 19 points in the Democrats' favor a week ago to only seven points today.
Now that's significant, much more significant than the present poll numbers. Enthusiasm is infectious. It also means other things that are vital to a campaign. Contributions. Volunteers. GOTV efforts. Grassroots organizing and campaigning. Things that have led to Republican victories in the past.

So while the poll numbers have to cause a little concern among the Democrats, they know these will change as the campaign goes on. But the numbers showing the closing of the enthusiasm gap have to be much more worrying to the Dems than the other numbers. A enthused and motivated political opponent is a much tougher one to win against vs. an opponent who is, for all intents and purposes, just going through the motions.

I think Republicans have stolen a step on the Dems. And I think they're in the middle of stealing the "change" theme from them as well. There is building enthusiasm among not only the base, but independents as well. And women, much to the Dems chagrin, are taking a second look as well.

Palin will be doing a series of interviews in the very near future that I think are going to be key to further closing this gap. It is very important that she do well (and I think she will). Like it or not, she is the impetus behind this rise in the polls and closing of the enthusiasm gap. That's a lot of pressure to put on someone new to the national scene. If she again rises to the occasion, she may steal all the remaining air from the Obama/Biden ticket.

I hate to use the term, but she's the new rockstar in town. And there is nothing worse - when a new rockstar shows up - than being the old rockstar.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

Game changer...
I’ve commented before here that my vote would be wasted in my state, and I intended to write in "None of the above".
Not now. I’m energized and excited. All the things you list are true, and if you consider "blue collar" folks in my state and the unfortunate fact that "the bradley effect" will be in play, (many of my redneck relatives are solid democrat/card-carrying Union members, and they won’t vote for Obama if he’s the only candidate on the ballot.)
Obama and his supporters are in for a rough election.
How blacks respond to his having his butt handed to him will be an interesting thing to behold.
Written By: Greybeard
The game changer wasn’t Palin so much as the nutroots reaction.

That "Trig is really Palin’s grandkid" thing really annoyed a lot of people
Written By: shark
URL: http://
Question for the political stats geeks out there: all things being equal, but aren’t Republicans underpolled until November, at least over the 8-10 presidential races? Meaning, don’t the Republicans generally gain 3-5% in actual votes than they’ve been polled over the prior months?
Written By: Warrior Needs Food Badley
URL: http://
Arrrgh. That should read, " least over the last 8-10 presidential races?"
Written By: Warrior Needs Food Badley
URL: http://
Small correction: libs don’t have "enthusiasm": they have hatred.
Written By: docjim505
URL: http://
McCain isn’t taking contributions anymore (except for ’compliance’ costs) because he’s showing his small-gov bonifides by dipping into the public financing trough for this election.

And yet I will hold my nose and vote for Confused/Palin over the far, far more destructive choice.
Written By: Grimshaw
URL: http://
...don’t the Republicans generally gain 3-5% in actual votes than they’ve been polled over the prior months?
There does seem to be some tendency for the Republican to gain as the election approaches. Bush the Elder made up 17 points in just a few weeks, for example. But it varies a lot. In 2004, most polls showed something close to a dead heat in the weeks immediately prior to the election, and Bush won by about 2.4% - not nearly as big a difference.

Bush did pick up ground in the polls from the spring and early summer. Most polls in May, for example, gave Kerry a lead. We are seeing the same effect this year. Many have hypothesized why. One plausible hypothesis is that the opposition gets more motivated early, and Bush voters didn’t really start paying attention until closer to the election. McCain voters may behave the same; we really don’t know.

But you can’t read too much into the history of polls and try to extrapolate to this year. The methodologies of the polls vary from year to year, as the pollsters try to adapt their techniques based on the errors they made in the last round. They are struggling to overcome the cell-phone effect, and the resulting skew in the land-line population that they normally poll.

What’s more interesting to me are the surveys that say media bias is a bigger problem than big money in campaigns. The public is seriously soured on the major media, much more than in 2004. That can’t be good news for Democrats, who depend on the media to deliver their fifteen percent.
Written By: Billy Hollis
URL: http://
Realclearpolitics (Cruel September from Drudge) is showing McCain either tied or ahead in 5 major polls.

Written By: looker
URL: http://
Warrior Needs Food Badly
I still say that the above is one of the best handles EVER...
Written By: Scott Jacobs
URL: http://
Its finally come to this. Obama is stealing speeches from far left Canadian politicians

Written By: capt joe
URL: http://
The game changer wasn’t Palin so much as the nutroots reaction.

That "Trig is really Palin’s grandkid" thing really annoyed a lot of people
From the things Obama is saying the past two days ("They think the American people are stupid.") and the way he’s saying them (whining like a chump), I’d say that the messiah shtick is dead and gone, and what’s left is a candidate in the Gore, Kerry mode (bluster and condescension).

It’s going to be interesting to see the next move by the McCain campaign. Palin cut Obama really bad in her convention speech (much more so than I realized as I listened to it live). But she did it effortlessly.

It will be interesting to see which of his vulnerabilities they’ll go after next. There are so many to choose from.
Written By: Martin McPhillips
Thank you Scott. It’s funny (to me) when I have to explain it to the older and younger generations. Gen X...aah, those were the days, eh?
Written By: Warrior Needs Food Badly
URL: http://
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