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After a brief tightening of the margins post-HIR, it looks like the much-ballyhooed "enthusiasm gap" between Republican and Democratic voters is back in force:

Gallup's analysis speaks to how utterly unprecedented the current enthusiasm gap truly is, according to their measurements:

The current average is based on four measures of this enthusiasm question since February, including the recent June 11-13 USA Today/Gallup poll. In that poll, 53% of Republicans said they were more enthusiastic than usual about voting and 39% were less enthusiastic, while 35% of Democrats said they were more enthusiastic about voting and 56% were less enthusiastic.

Republicans' net score of +14 more enthusiastic in the latest poll compared with the Democrats' net score of -21 represents the largest relative party advantage Gallup has measured in a single midterm election year poll.

Voter enthusiasm matters for a simple reason--midterm elections are all about the drop-off: In a typical midterm, 20-40 million voters from the previous presidential election elect to stay home. Determining which voters are sitting out the midterms goes a long way to determining which party holds the edge.

That's why Chris Cillizza pointed out this morning that "when one party's base is, to borrow a phrase, fired up and ready to go and the others isn't, major change can happen."

Of course, there is the traditional caution that there is a certain danger of reading too much into the results of a single poll. An analysis of turnout from the May 18 primaries showed that GOP primary turnout was robust when compared to previous cycles, but that Democratic turnout also increased, muting the overall performance gap somewhat.

Tom Jensen, part of the polling crew over at PPP, went even further, looking at whether voting enthusiasm actually informs final results. As you can read in his piece, he is skeptical of the impact:

Clearly there is a significant enthusiasm gap that is playing to Republicans' advantage. But most poll answering Democrats who say they're unexcited about voting are still doing so in the races we've had thus far this cycle, so getting too excited about large Republican leads with highly enthused voters when the overall numbers tell a different story is somewhat misleading. An unexcited vote counts just the same as a very excited one.

That excellent point aside, the evidence continues to get clearer that the path to minimizing the damage for Democrats will go through the base. The DNC, the White House, and the DCCC/DSCC are going to need to make mobilizing base turnout priority one if they want to avoid electoral disaster in November.

Originally posted to Daily Kos on Mon Jun 21, 2010 at 04:18 PM PDT.

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