It’s that intangible quality that can make or break a political campaign. It might be best defined by its opposite: apathy. The Republican leadership race is loaded with energy. Call it a circus, call it reality TV, call it whatever you like — there is passionate interest in which guy wins the contest for leadership. You might even say “it’s Yuge”.
On the other side? You have the Hillary / Bernie snorefest. This boredom makes a big difference in the races going forward.
Before we look at the trends from Super Tuesday and the races leading up to it, let’s look back at what happened in 2008 and 2012. The breakdown from Bloomberg Business was pleased to report that Obama was the first president since 1956 to win both terms with 51% or more of the total vote.
But, obviously, that number only tells part of the story. Aside from irregularities where critics claim he had more votes than mathematically possible, what was the actual turnout like?
In 2008, after 8 years of chafing under a Republican President they loathed, Democrats latched onto an upstart peddling a message of “hope and change”. The liked his pitch even more than they hated the Republicans. And so, with quasi-religious fervor, they threw their weight behind their new guy, launching the 44th President into office.
Four years later, he wasn’t quite the saviour they had expected. And although they elected him, again the honeymoon was over, and they nearly lost that race. Only the weak Republican turnout kept him in office that second term.
Let’s recap those numbers.
In 2008: 69.4 Million votes for Obama; 59.9 Million for McCain
In 2012: 59.8 Million votes for Obama; 57.1 Million for Romney
If you look at those numbers carefully, you’ll see that if McCain’s total was up against Obama’s second term numbers, Obama would have lost at least the popular vote, possibly the election itself. And that is without even without gaining a single vote more than the 2008 losing total.
That is the difference “Energy” makes. Energized voters show up. Apathetic ones stay home. Now let’s check some numbers from this cycle’s Primaries. (courtesy Washington Times)
First, Democrat numbers are sagging worse than Hillary’s overloaded support hose. Someone has coined the phrase “enthusiasm gap” to describe the problem. In Virginia, for example, Dems have 200,000 fewer votes this year than their 2008 high water mark — but the GOP have 150% of their highest benchmark (2000) in the same state.
You see this trend echoed across other states as well. GOP response is strong and vibrant. The media can depict them as fractured and in “disarray” all they want, but their supporters are passionate, and coming out to support the candidates they like best.
Trump? He had some record-breaking turnout numbers in his wins on Super Tuesday. So did Cruz in Texas, and for that matter, in Iowa. Night after night we are seeing strong response from the voters. Ultimately, the real winners are the GOP as a whole.
Sanders and Clinton? You don’t see anywhere near that level of support. Their voters are faced with a choice between a washed up Socialist retread who’s been in office longer than key Obama voters have been alive, or a One-Percenter, can’t-get-more-establishment-than-a-Clinton professional scandal magnet. (And, whoops! She is under investigation by the FBI.)
If those are the best candidates they can throw together for the election, is it any wonder their base is showing signs of apathy? #FeelBurnedYet?
So, really, the big winner here may be the voter who wants to throw out the Democrats, and put an end to the social experiment of “Fundamental Change” Obama has been applying to one American Institution after another.
The next step is for the also-rans to concede gracefully and let the top two contenders go head-to-head. Let’s get this over with, so we can get on with the national “Hillary for Prison 2016” campaign.