Last week, sparked by a thought from Ed, I wondered about the impact of turnout on the eventual November contest. Turnout, I stated obviously, is a function of the enthusiasm for the candidate and the effectiveness of the mechanism that translates that enthusiasm into votes.
I think it is safe to say that the Obama campaign will almost certainly have the better mechanism. The campaign is taking full advantage of having no primary opponent to build a state of the art machine to get their voters to the polls. This luxury should not be underestimated. There is no way the eventual Republican nominee can match this infrastructure. Nor is there any pre-built party machinery to turn to.
Increasingly, candidates build their own organizations loyal to them, and it takes time to do this. Voters have to be ranked by geographic importance and candidate loyalty, and in this new world of social media, they need to feel "involved" in the campaign, that they have a personal connection. The best of the lot need to be trained so they become ambassadors and expand the numbers of supporters geometrically.
But if the Republicans can't win on the mechanics of turnout, what about the other driver governing the equation: voter enthusiasm? Here, too, while, it's early, I see signs for concern for the GOP. Voter enthusiasm can be broken into two parts: excitement for your candidate and disdain for the opponent. No question that Obama provides half the formula. But is Mitt Romney, or any of the other candidates for that matter, capable of generating real devotion? Of course, it is still too early to conclude, but I would say the early signs are not promising. At this time in 2008, Democrats and many Independents were rabid to repudiate the Bush years, but they were also rabid for the two lead candidates: Clinton and Obama. So far, the Republicans lack that ingredient for ultimate success.