Chuck Todd: The enthusiasm gap is real -- and a real problem for Obama

Did the enthusiasm gap detected by the Politico/GWU poll published today have to do with the debate performance by Barack Obama on Wednesday night? Not necessarily, and it might mean that the full impact of the debate has yet to materialize.  On yesterday’s Meet the Press, Chuck Todd detailed the falloff in enthusiasm among key Democratic demographics, both compared to stronger Republican demos and to the 2008 election.  And Todd points out that these numbers came from a survey before the debate (via NewsAlert):

The HuffPo has the transcript:

 Well, it’s simply an enthusiasm gap. And we’re seeing it across the board. Look at here in this first one. 79% of Republicans call themselves extremely interested in this election. On a scale of one to ten, that means they said they’re a nine or a ten on interest in the election. 73% of Democrats.

Look at four years ago. It was a 13 point gap in favor of the Democrats. Let me go through some various voting groups. This is an important voting group. Seniors are an important voting group to Mitt Romney now. He leads them by about 10 points in our NBC Wall Street Journal poll. Look at this in engagement in the election. Four years ago was 81%, pretty higher. Even higher this time at 87%. And Romney’s doing better among seniors than McCain did.

Let me go to an important voting group for the president, young voters. Look at this engagement level: 52% now they call themselves, voters 18 to 34, call themselves extremely interested in this election. Four years ago it was 72%. That 20 gap. The president wins young voters by huge margins. He’s winning them by some 20-plus points. But if you don’t have this kind of enthusiasm, they’re not going to show up to the polls.

And then let me give you this last one here, because this is, I think, the most important one. And that’s Hispanics. The President’s winning Hispanics by 50 points. He hit the 70% mark. However, look at this in terms of interest in the election. 59% now, it was 77%. What does that mean? President got 65%, I believe, of Hispanics four years ago.

So even though he’s going to get more Hispanics, if less of them turn out, it’s a net zero. And yet, you look at Republican enthusiasm, up, senior enthusiasm, up. It’s a huge problem. And by the way, all of this, pre-debate.

Had Obama shown up to the debate with some preparation and energy but still got outdebated, the impact on voter enthusiasm might have been minimal.  However, Obama looked distracted, disengaged, and, well … unenthusiastic about his own candidacy on Wednesday night.  If Obama can’t be bothered to at least look enthusiastic, what kind of message did that send to his voting constituencies?  Don’t be surprised to see these gaps widen in the next round of polling.

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