As I noted last week in “Democrats to women: drop dead,” the Democrats are facing political doomsday on November 2, largely because of their own cowardice and incompetence. We read this morning in The New York Times that President Obama is “appealing to his liberal base” and holding pep rallies aimed at college students and African Americans. What about the rest of his base–you know, the majority of democrats—women of all ethnicities, but especially non-white women?
I’ll let you read the article for yourself to get a handle on the problem, but here’s a little study guide for your reference:
The White House may be making progress closing the so-called enthusiasm gap with Republicans, according to Democratic strategists who point to improving poll numbers and fund-raising. But the fact that Mr. Obama needs to make such a concerted effort highlights the depth of disaffection among liberals over what they see as his failure to aggressively push for the change he promised.
“It’s great that President Obama is showing a fighting spirit in the weeks before an election, but what his former voters need to see is that same fighting spirit when he’s governing,” said Adam Green, a co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, a group started last year to advocate for liberal goals and candidates.
David Axelrod, the president’s senior adviser, said the appeal to the base stemmed entirely from political reality. “It’s not frustration at all,” he said. “It’s fundamental. Almost the entire Republican margin is based on the enthusiasm gap, and if Democrats come out in the same turnout as Republicans, it’s going to be a much different election.”
He added: “There are millions of voters who came out in 2008 who were first-time voters who came out because of the president and who aren’t continuing midterm voters. Our challenge is to make them understand this is a consequential election and we need them to participate.”
The focus on the left underscores the White House conclusion that it will be harder to convince independents to turn out for Democrats this year. “The nature of independents is they’re independent and they tend to vote against the majority party,” Mr. Axelrod said. “I think that is true here.”
Recent polls show that Republicans hold an edge among voters likely to turn out on Election Day, while Democrats pull ahead if all registered voters are counted.
Third Way, an organization of centrist Democrats, produced a study showing that liberals are the smallest share of the electorate and not enough to keep Congress in Democratic hands. Citing Gallup polling data, the study said self-described conservatives made up 42 percent of the electorate, compared with moderates who make up 35 percent and liberals who make up 20 percent, a shift of several points to the right in the last two years.
In 16 of 21 hotly contested states, Democratic candidates who simply match Mr. Obama’s overall 2008 performance still will not have enough votes to win, according to the group’s study. Instead, the study said, the candidates must outperform Mr. Obama among moderates.
“Even if Democrats close the enthusiasm gap with their base, they still have another enthusiasm gap to close with moderates,” said Anne Kim, domestic policy program director for the group. “Democrats don’t have the luxury of leaning on their base to deliver wins because there simply aren’t enough liberals.”
Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden have stepped up their campaign efforts significantly in recent weeks. Mr. Obama will appear at fund-raisers in New Jersey on Wednesday and Illinois on Thursday before holding the second of four large rallies on Sunday, this one in Philadelphia. Aiming at younger voters, he will hold a webcast town hall meeting next Tuesday and two days later another town hall on MTV and five other channels. He has other big rallies scheduled in Columbus and Las Vegas.
Richard Trumka, president of the A.F.L.-C.I.O., said that it had taken a while for Mr. Obama to find a coherent message but that he finally seemed to have done so.
“I see the enthusiasm,” he told reporters on Tuesday. “I’m out there. I’m doing door knocks. They are focused on things. They understand the importance of this election.”
Jim Dean, chairman of the liberal group Democracy for America, said activists were willing to put aside any squabbles with the president for now.
“We’re soldiering on,” he said. “We’re going to do this one way or the other. We’re going to work to keep the majority. At the end of the day, whatever issues we have with what the White House says, we can have that conversation on Nov. 3.”
U haz enthusiasm gap? You don’t say! Talk (mostly) amongst yourselves, boys. We’ll check back in with you on November 3!