Sunday, October 15, 2006

Will the "intensity gap" be enough?

The New York Times is getting excited about Democrats' prospects in '06:
Voter intensity is a critical element in politics, especially in midterm elections, when Americans’ interest and turnout are typically much lower than in a presidential election year. Pollsters say enthusiasm among Democrats is particularly high this year — significantly higher, by several important measures, than the intensity of Republicans.
Conservative voters have many reasons to be less enthusiastic this year, analysts say, including their party’s deficit spending and the scandal over Mr. Foley’s conduct toward Congressional pages, not to mention an array of local Republican scandals in Ohio. But if the Republican get-out-the-vote drive, known as the 72-Hour Project, lives up to its billing, said Andrew Kohut, head of the Pew center, “the turnout consequences for the G.O.P. might not be as dire as these poll numbers suggest.

The Dems certainly want it this year, to use an irritating sports cliche. And having seen the 72-Hour Project up close and personal - I worked on the Bush '04 campaign - I see real flaws to focusing exclusively on the program. By focusing purely on the most fundamentalist Republicans - identification calls have already been done to weed out any potential Democrats and even "soft Republicans" who might not vote the right way - the 72-Hour Project not only drastically skews the voice of the religious right, it also cuts any libertarian-leaning types and moderates completely out of the equation. That plan may backfire - libertarians seem to be getting the message that they're not wanted in the GOP.

Moderate Republicans have plenty to be turned off by, and it's beginning to show, while the Dems are apparently starting to leverage discontent into actual votes. With a number of Wisconsin conservatives against even the gay marriage amendment, and faced with craptacular choices at most every level of state elections, the Dems have a decent shot.

Of course, Howard Dean's 50-State strategy will play a major role - whether for good or ill is yet to be seen. This retrenchment, coupled with a purge of not-really Democrats like Joe Lieberman, is probably a good thing for the Dems long-term, but may hurt their chances this year. If history is any indicator, the Dems are quite good lately at losing spectacularly.


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