The Washington Post

2014: The “meh” election

During the 2012 presidential election, Jim Wilson trailed the Mitt Romney campaign for months, handing out campaign posters and directing traffic at events. “I don’t think anyone has as much sweat equity in this sucker as I have,” he told the New York Times. Fellow Romniac Joe McCutchen told the Washington Post, “I’m just so fired up, I can’t even sleep at night." Pro wrestler Eric Hartsburg had the Romney campaign logo tattooed on his face.

Barack Obama inspired even more political devotion. There was Obama Girl. There were Katy Perry's fingernails.

We can already see the same sort of excitement building for the 2016 presidential race over Hillary Clinton -- all of her richest supporters are already forming fan clubs.

No such Mark Pryor super fan has yet been found in the wild.

In this Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014 photo, U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor, D-Ark., holds a pan of raccoon meat at the Gillett Coon Supper in Gillett, Ark. Pryor faces a challenge from Republican Tom Cotton in the 2014 election. (AP Photo/Danny Johnston)

And although Mitch McConnell has already inspired a YouTube meme this election cycle, none of the videos were the passion project of a breathless McConnelliac.

Voters are less excited about the 2014 midterms than they have been for any election in at least a decade, according to a recent Gallup poll. Fifty-three percent of voters are feeling less enthusiastic about the upcoming elections than they have felt about previous elections.

They have been pretty unmotivated about the elections for months too. Pew Research Center asked Americans how excited they were about the 2014 elections at the end of last year. They were more excited about the Super Bowl and the Winter Olympics. Who knows how tepid the election enthusiasm would look if it were compared to excitement for watching Frozen, eating waffle tacos or live-tweeting Game of Thrones.

Democrats are decidedly less enthused than Republicans. Only 32 percent of Democrats are enthusiastic about 2014, while 42 percent of Republicans are more enthusiastic about 2014 than past elections.

What does this mean for how the midterms will end? Gallup notes,

Typically, the party whose supporters have an advantage in enthusiasm has done better in midterm elections. Republicans had decided advantages in enthusiasm in 1994, 2002, and especially 2010 -- years in which they won control of the House of Representatives or expanded on their existing majority. Democrats had the advantage in 2006, the year they won control of the House. Neither party had a decided advantage in 1998, a year Democrats posted minimal gains in House seats.

Although no one is awaiting November with bated breath, Republicans still have an edge in enthusiasm -- which means they have one more advantage to add to their growing list.

Voters tend to tune out during midterm elections, but even the most devoted election junkies seem to feel pretty lukewarm about an election cycle that could end up giving the Senate majority to Republicans. The fact that the American public is not too pleased with their electoral options writ large probably goes a long way toward explaining the resounding "mehs."

Another recent Gallup survey shows that the public thinks that the largest problem facing the nation is how much they hate the government. Pew Research found out that 2013 was the least productive year in recent congressional history. A Public Policy Polling survey from last fall showed that Americans prefer toenail fungus, dog poop, jury duty and witches to Congress. They hated Miley Cyrus and Ebola more, but who knows how things have changed in the past few months.

This lack of enthusiasm doesn't entirely mean that voters won't turn out. All this well-polled bile could mean that less than enthusiastic voters turn out in droves to kick out incumbents. However, history doesn't suggest that is very possible.

All the superfans will have to bide their time, raising moneyattending events and firing up the base for 2016 while they wait out the least exciting election in ages.

Jaime Fuller reports on national politics for "The Fix" and Post Politics. She worked previously as an associate editor at the American Prospect, a political magazine based in Washington, D.C.



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