A new national poll from CNN shows two conflicting points of data. First, President Barack Obama remains vulnerable in a match-up with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney by the numbers, as Romney bests the President by one point in the survey 48 - 47. But Romney’s presence at the top of the ticket, which is becoming more and more likely as he continues to win primary states, raise millions, and pick up endorsements, seems to be having another effect on the party — the CNN poll shows that GOP enthusiasm is going down just as 2012 is starting.
The CNN numbers were not the first to show this confluence of events — Pew released numbers in the second week of January comparing the level of Republican enthusiasm for their candidates at levels that closely resembled Democrats in 2004, both of which are well below the fire that both parties had for their candidates in 2008. “In the current survey, conservative Republicans and GOP-leaning independents express more positive opinions of the presidential field than do moderates or liberals (56% excellent or good vs. 43%),” Pew wrote. “In January 2008, 70% of conservatives and 64% of moderates and liberals said the GOP candidates as a group were excellent or good.”
CNN numbers released Monday seem to show that Republicans’ inability to get excited about particular candidates this time around may be eating away at their desire to get to the polls. From the network’s analysis:
Enthusiasm in voting in the presidential election this November now stands at 54% among registered Republicans, down ten points from last October. Meanwhile, enthusiasm among registered Democrats has risen six points, and now stands at 49%.
“In a race that tight, turnout is likely to determine the outcome, and the Democrats have begun to close the ‘enthusiasm gap’ that damaged their prospects so badly in the 2010 midterms,” says CNN Polling Director Keating Holland.
Of course, the President’s matchup numbers aren’t favorable for an incumbent right now — anytime an officeholder is under 50 percent, it shows that voters aren’t particularly satisfied with their performance. But Obama’s approval numbers have been rising after the debt ceiling fight during the summer that hit all DC politicians hard, and he remains slightly ahead of Romney in the TPM Poll Average of the potential matchup.
But the enthusiasm numbers show that Romney may be hampered by his own issues. While he does do well with independent voters, many of whom are dissatisfied with Obama’s job performance, Romney can ill afford a depressed base if the election turns out to be very close.
Kyle is the Editor of TPM Media’s PollTracker. He graduated from Beloit College (WI) and began working in politics before getting an M.A. in magazine journalism from New York University, where he interned at TPM and the website of The New Yorker.