Voter turnout: The last, best hope for Dems?

Democrats are revving up their get-out-the-vote machine and praying it will limit the scope of a GOP victory

Michelle Obama speaks at a rally aimed at young voters. A Gallup poll found 75 percent of Republicans were 'certain' to vote, compared to 68 percent of Democrats.
(Image credit: Getty)

Most pollsters are forecasting huge Republican gains in Congress, and one of the main reasons is that conservative voters are, on average, far more enthusiastic about going to the polls this year than liberal voters are. But Democratic leaders are hoping that a program of "well-funded, sophisticated voter turnout efforts" will boost their candidates by a percentage point or two and allow the party to prevail in tight contests like the Senate races in Colorado, Illinois, and Nevada. Will voter turnout efforts save the day for Dems? (Watch a CNN report about voter enthusiasm)

Begging people to vote will not save Democrats: Republicans have flipped hordes of conservatives "from non-voters to voters just through the intensity of their pitch this year," says David Dayen at Firedoglake. To counter that, Democrats needed to convince the new voters who backed them in 2008 that their vote translated into "some tangible success in their lives." Instead, young people are "mad" that their concerns have not been addressed, and that will cost Democrats dearly at the polls.

"2010 midterms determined by non-voters more than voters"

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Democratic apathy may have been exaggerated: The polls projecting the biggest gains for the GOP tend to ignore cellphone-only voters, who are "younger, more urban, and less white," says Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight — that is, more likely to be politically liberal. Plus, Democrats really do have a great turnout machine left over from President Obama's 2008 campaign, and the vote of an "only-somewhat-enthusiastic Democrat" counts as much as one cast by a really "psyched up" Republican.

"5 reasons Democrats could beat the polls and hold the House"

Actually, turnout is more likely to deepen Democratic losses: It's pretty clear "there's a massive enthusiasm gap between Democrats and Republicans," says Jeremy P. Jacobs at National Journal. According to the Pew Research Center, 70 percent of Republicans have thought a lot about this election — that's a higher number than either party has mustered in the past five midterms. If anything, it means Republicans will win even some of the close races Democrats are counting on to ease their pain.

"All politics is national"

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SEE MORE OF THE WEEK's 2010 ELECTION COVERAGE:

• 6 biggest voter 'screw-ups' of 2010

• Top 6 tense debate moments of 2010

• Top 6 political stunts of 2010

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