Capitol by scottwill (flickr)

Capitol by scottwill (flickr)

A Research 2000/Daily Kos poll released on Friday gives the most direct evidence that Democrats face major trouble in the midterm elections because their base is completely unmotivated to vote.

Obama remains in positive territory at 53% approval in the poll, and both the Democratic Party and Democratic leaders outpoll their Republican counterparts. On the generic ballot test, Democrats still lead by 5 points, 37-32. However, the key statistic in the poll can be found here:

But a bigger indicator of peril comes from a new survey question added the DK tracking poll for the first time this week. The poll now includes a rather simple indicator of baseline voter enthusiasm for the year 2010. The question offered to respondents is a simple question about their intentions for 2010:

QUESTION: In the 2010 Congressional elections will you definitely vote, probably vote, not likely vote, or definitely will not vote?

The results were, to put it mildly, shocking:

Voter Intensity: Definitely + Probably Voting/Not Likely + Not Voting

Republican Voters: 81/14
Independent Voters: 65/23

Two in five Democratic voters either consider themselves unlikely to vote at this point in time, or have already made the firm decision to remove themselves from the 2010 electorate pool. Indeed, Democrats were three times more likely to say that they will “definitely not vote” in 2010 than are Republicans.

These numbers would probably be enough to destroy Democratic hopes in swing district and close Senate seats throughout the country. And the reasons are pretty clear; Democrats have simply not been given enough of a reason to come out and vote yet. The economy is still struggling, health care is moving at a glacial pace (and it’s one of the few major issues moving), the Obama Administration has alienated liberals on various key parts of the agenda, and there’s a persistent feeling that Wall Street has been bailed out at the expense of ordinary Americans.

You can account for some of this by citing the historic obstructionism of the GOP and the major hole in which the Administration found themselves on January 20, 2009. But you can’t account for all of it, and even if you could, it wouldn’t change the basic dynamic – the right has been worked into a frenzy hell-bent on defeating the man they are told is the second coming of Hitler, while the left is waiting for that long-promised “change” they can believe in.

Steve Benen writes:

It’s obviously not too late, and a great deal can happen over the next 10 or so months. What’s more, the solution isn’t exactly a mystery — if Dems do what they were elected to do, they’ll be pleased with the results. I keep thinking about something Rep. Gerald Connolly (D-Va.) said earlier this month: “We must deliver. I need to give Democrats something to be excited about.”

Finish health care. Pass a jobs bill. Finish the climate bill. Re-regulate the financial industry. Finish the education bill. Pick up immigration reform. Repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” It’s ambitious, but a Democratic Congress and a Democratic president can prove to the country that they know how to tackle the issues that matter and know how to get things done.

Until some tangible progress occurs, and on things that matter and not “entitlement reform” or some triangulating issue that will only piss off the base further, that enthusiasm gap will only expand heading into next November.

David Dayen

David Dayen