I’ve always been struck by a simple reality in politics: If any candidate can tap into that very deep well of people who don’t normally vote, convincing them to show up at the polls, that candidate will blow the projection models to pieces. Faced with a campaign that break the political mold, polls can become extremely unreliable.
Barack Obama did it in 2008. Even as he described himself as the unlikeliest of candidates, he was drawing oceans of new voters – a giant, electoral catapult that launched him from relative obscurity into the White House, even though only a year earlier many political analysts would have given him zero chance of winning the Democratic nomination let alone the general election.
I wasn’t sure I’d ever see such a thing again. That is, until this primary season. And my, oh my. How the worm has turned. In case you haven’t noticed, Republicans are showing up all over the place in record breaking numbers, while Democrats are lagging far behind. More than nine million voters have made their mark for GOP candidates already, while only six million and change have weighed in for the current president’s party.
If you are a Democrat, this ought to be keeping you up at night.
What’s driving the big numbers? Many of the after-action reports from the primaries and caucuses sum it up in a word: Trump. The billionaire from New York is smashing down all the walls of political predictability, collecting support from a surprisingly wide base of voters. Sure, he’s managed to alienate a good many too, what with his inflammatory statements about religious, ethnic and immigrant groups. But he has also ginned up a staggering amount of enthusiasm. In our polls, GOP are tremendously excited about this election; eager to get to November, eager to cast their ballots, eager to take back that nice place on Pennsylvania Avenue. While Democrats? It’s much harder to find that kind of fire on their side right now.
The election is still a ways off. Things can change. But if Dems don’t start getting excited about their candidate, the rumble we’re hearing right now could turn out to be the wooden wheels of another enormous contraption ready to launch a once long-shot candidate – this time a Republican - right into the Oval Office.