Republicans are winning the midterm enthusiasm war — but don’t expect a wave

Republicans are more enthusiastic about voting in the November midterm elections than Democrats -- but not by the margins seen at this point in the 2010 and 2006 wave years.

A new Pew Research Center poll released Thursday shows that 45 percent of voters who plan to cast ballots for the Republican candidate in their district say they are more enthusiastic about voting than in the past. Just 37 percent of those who plan to vote for the Democrat say the same thing.

(Chart via Pew) (Chart via Pew)

That's good news for Republicans. But how good?

Not quite 2010 good. In June of that year, the enthusiasm gap tilted 55-42 toward Republicans. The GOP swept into power in the House, picking up 63 seats in November.

In the 2006 Democratic wave year, Democrats were winning the enthusiasm battle 47-30 at around this point in the year.

There are some shades of 2010 this year. The poll shows about the same percentage who plan to support the Republican saying they are certain to vote this year, compared to four years ago. And opposition to President Obama remains a strong motivating factor for the GOP.

But Democrats are more concerned about which party controls Congress than they were four years ago. The House is expected to remain in GOP hands, but Republicans and Democrats are in an intense batle for control of the Senate.

The bottom line: Republicans are well-positioned for the fall. But if you're expecting a broad sweep like Republicans completed in 2010 or Democrats did in 2006, you may be disappointed.

Sean Sullivan has covered national politics for The Washington Post since 2012.

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