The poll that Republicans have been waiting for is finally here


EPA/ERIK S. LESSER

It's no secret that key Democratic groups are significantly less enthused about voting in the 2014 election than their GOP-leaning counterparts. A myriad of polls have shown this to be the case.

But perhaps none have shown its potential impact as clearly as the new CBS News poll.

The poll, released Wednesday night, shows Democrats actually maintain a lead on the generic ballot -- i.e. do you intend to vote for a generic Republican or a generic Democrat in the upcoming election -- 41-37. That's where they want to be.

When you drill down on those most excited about voting in the November election, though, it's a very different story.

Among those who say they are "more enthusiastic" than usual about voting -- a little more than one-third of registered voters -- the GOP actually leads ... by seven points, 47-40.

Generic

As we've written before, polling that focuses on those who are most likely to vote in the upcoming election is and will be more favorable to the GOP than a lot of the polls you're seeing today -- most of which survey "registered voters" rather than "likely voters."

The CBS numbers aren't quite "likely voters" -- a voter doesn't have to be more enthusiastic than usual to be a likely voter -- but they do show how big the difference in enthusiasm (and, by extension, turnout) could be.

What's more, among those who say they are equally as enthusiastic about voting as previous elections, significantly more are Republican-leaning (14 percent of the GOP) than Democratic-leaning (8 percent).

In a neutral environment, Democrats are supposed to have a slight lead on the generic ballot. Recent history shows the GOP tends to gain even when the generic ballot is close. If they have a generic-ballot lead, as they did in 2010, it's Bad News Bears for Democrats.

There are still three months to go, and this is just the first in a long line of polls that will spotlight the differences between registered voters and those most likely to turn out on Nov. 4, but the fact that the most enthused potential voters favor the GOP by seven points has got to be concerning if you're a Democrat.

Key parts of the so-called "Obama coalition" that delivered the presidency to Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012 are historically much more prone to drop off in midterm elections. And for 2014, it's not really a question of if the electorate will be worse for Democrats than in 2012, but rather, by how much.

This poll lays bare how serious that problem could be.

Aaron Blake covers national politics and writes regularly for The Fix.
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