And it spells bad news for Sen. Patty Murray (D). Early voting figures and a new poll from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling suggest a surge of support for Dino Rossi. Among the 76 percent of voters who have already sent in their ballots, according to the poll, Rossi leads 52 to 47 percent.
Among those who haven’t sent their ballots in, Murray leads 51 to 46 percent, with five percent undecided. At this point it is doubtful that those undecideds will break for Murray. If they do end up voting, history suggests they will break against the incumbent, especially in a wave year like this one.
In order for Murray to win, Democrats must “vote at a higher rate than response to [the] poll suggested.” But all indications suggest that even in Washington state, Democrats are just not that motivated this year, or, at the very least will be hard pressed to compete with Republican enthusiasm.
State Democrats and Murray’s supporters have long-insisted that the “enthusiasm gap” sweeping most of the country is minimal to non-existent in Washington state. However, PPP argues that the opposite is true (emphasis added):
Washington has one of the more severe enthusiasm gaps in the country. Barack Obama won the state by 17 points in 2008 but those planning to vote this year supported him by only a 7 point margin.
Pat Shortridge, Rossi’s campaign manager, says that turnout trends evident in the early voting returns are very promising for Rossi. In a memo comparing this year’s numbers with those of the 2004 governor’s race between Rossi and current Gov. Chris Gregoire (ultimately decided by less than 200 votes) Shortridge writes:
As you’ll note, in 2004, turnout in the heavily Democrat 7th CD was about 1.4 percentage points ahead of the state average. This year, the 7th CD is 3.3 percentage points behind the statewide average. Likewise, the 1st CD was 4 percentage points ahead of the statewide average in 2004. This year, it is 2.7 percentage points behind.
Further, in 2004, the more Republican 4th CD was 3.8 percentage points behind the state average, while the 5th CD was just under 2.5 percentage points behind. This year, the 4th CD is almost 5 percentage points ahead, as is the 5th CD.
Any notion that Democrat voters are just as motivated as Republicans, or even closing the [gap], is just not credible, and bears no relationship to the facts.
So it would appear that Democrats’ best efforts to motivate their base — sending Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, Bill Clinton, Joe Biden, Jill Biden, to campaign on Murray’s behalf (all in the past couple of weeks) — have failed to drive Democratic turnout in early voting.
Maybe they are waiting until the very last minute to post their ballots. Or maybe Sen. Murray should start looking for a new job.