There are two interesting polls from Gallup today worth highlighting.
The first shows that by 53 percent to 45 percent, Republicans, including independents who lean Republican, are more likely than Democrats and Democratic leaners to say they are “more enthusiastic than usual about voting” this year. The 53 percent of Republicans who feel more enthusiastic about voting today — as Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are engaged in a pitched nomination battle — is greater than the 44 percent found in February 2008, when John McCain and Mike Huckabee were still facing off in the primaries.
Gallup points out that the enthusiasm question is important because, in the last several presidential and midterm elections, the party whose rank-and-file members showed the most enthusiasm about voting toward the end of the campaign either gained congressional seats or won the presidency. It’s important to note, too, that enthusiasm is down among key parts of Barack Obama’s 2008 coalition, including non-whites (down 26 percent compared to this time four years ago) and 18-29 year olds (down 28 percent compared to this time four years ago).
The second poll shows that registered voters are currently split in their intentions to vote for the Republican or Democratic candidate in their congressional district, with 47 percent saying they would vote for each “if the elections for Congress were being held today.” Two previous polls, from December and August of last year, showed Democratic advantages of four and seven percentage points. Here’s why this is bad news for Democrats: At about this point in the 2010 election cycle, Democrats led by a three-point margin on the generic ballot. As Gallup points out, Republicans went on to gain a net total of 63 seats in the House in 2010, the largest such gain for the party since 1938.
This doesn’t mean the GOP nominee will win the presidency or the Republicans will re-take control of the Senate. It simply means that contrary to much of the Conventional Wisdom these days, the Republican Party is in fairly strong shape – and President Obama, while certainly in a better position than he was last fall, still faces a steep mountain to climb if he hopes to win a second term.