The Corner


Republicans Suffer from Rust Belt Enthusiasm Gap

A “I Voted” sticker is shown by a keyboard. July 29, 2017. (Steve Marcus/Reuters)

Don’t be deceived by polls showing both Democrats and Republicans enthused about voting in 2020. The national results obscure state-level realities. And the reality today is not reassuring for Republicans in states critical to Donald Trump’s reelection.

Gallup reported last week that “roughly two in three Americans (64%) say they are ‘more enthusiastic’ about voting compared with previous elections, while 28% are ‘less enthusiastic’ and 6% say they currently have the same level of enthusiasm as they have in the past.”

Gallup notes that typically the opposition party is more enthusiastic about voting than the party in power. That is not the case right now. Sixty-six percent of Republicans and sixty-five percent of Democrats “report being more excited about voting than they were in previous elections.” The more enthusiastic party tends to gain at the polls. Gallup’s numbers indicate a high-turnout election in which neither side has an excitement advantage.

But Republicans have no reason to be complacent. The Cook Political Report and the Kaiser Family Foundation have released the latest update to their “Blue Wall Voices Project” surveying opinion in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Minnesota. The data show President Trump down but not out. The issue positions of the Democratic nominee — such as Medicare For All, a ban on fracking, and an end to border enforcement — could help him win a second term by fusing swing voters to his rural, working-class, and aged base.

The warning sign: Democrats are more enthusiastic than Republicans in three of the four blue-wall states. Democratic enthusiasm is at least 10 points higher than that of Republicans in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. It’s interesting that excitement levels are even in Minnesota, where the Trump campaign hopes to expand the map.

Still, the enthusiasm gap in the three states whose close margins brought him victory in 2016 ought to be another point of concern for a reelection campaign still assimilating the results of last week’s off-year elections.


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