Enthusiasm Gap? Meet the Voter Gap!

You know that much vaunted "enthusiasm gap" that was going to wipe out Democrats in November and usher Tea Party Republican nutjobs into power?  Hold off on that for a bit.  In the midst of nearly every pollster predicting electoral bloodbath for the Democrats, the actual figures released about the people who have actually already voted tell a different story.  There's a lot of comparison pundits like to do to 2006, and how 2010 is 2006 in reverse.  Except the Atlas Project, a Democratic polling firm is observing a phenomenon, confirmed by outside analysts, that pundits seem to be missing:
"In many states, it even appears that the electorate so far is a little more Democratic than in 2006, although it is still early in the early voting process," [...]

Outside analysts are seeing much the same. "Democrats are not voting at as high rates as they did in 2008, but they are voting at higher rates [than Republicans] in early voting," said Michael McDonald, a George Mason University associate professor who specializes in voter behavior.
Wait, what?  You mean to tell me that in 2010, the year of the Democratic bloodbath, Democrats in several states have actually increased the gap in early voting turnout compared to 2006, the year of the Democratic resurgence? Am I the only one confused by this?  Could the pundits be wrong?  Oh noes!
In California, the Atlas Project's analysis suggests that Democrats account for 42.9 percent of the more than 1 million ballots cast thus far, which means they are running slightly ahead of the 41.4 percent they got in 2006. By comparison, Republicans have cast an estimated 39.7 percent of the early California ballots, which is down slightly from the 40.9 percent they got four years ago.
How did we do this in California?  One factor seems to be the Democrats' success in getting their voters to register for vote-by-mail ballots.  The California Democratic party, for years now, has been pushing its voters to vote by mail.  Why vote by mail?  Because data consistently shows that those who vote by mail have much higher turnout rates than those who do not, regardless of the election.  The strategy seems to be paying off, especially in northern California.
Mark DiCamillo, director the nonpartisan California Field Poll, noted that the state's early voters are heavily concentrated in the liberal San Francisco Bay area. He said nearly three-quarters of the voters in Santa Clara County have requested mail-in ballots, compared with 21 percent in Los Angeles County.
I am a resident of this aforementioned Santa Clara County.  I vote by mail.  My whole family votes by mail.  Our voter registration effort has been focused on getting Democrats to register to vote by mail.  And the result is that California is bucking the national trend by widening, rather than narrowing, the Democratic advantage in early voting.

California voters alone isn't alone in smacking back at the pundits.
In Nevada, where Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid is fighting to hold on to his seat, Democrats appear to have slightly strengthened their early-voting edge from four years ago. The same is true in Michigan, where the proportion of early voters who are African American has increased from 8.2 percent in 2006 to 11 percent so far in 2010, according to Atlas Project figures.
To be sure, while most of the rest of the states have a narrower early voting advantage for Democrats this year than they did in 2006, it is far from the story of doom and gloom the pundits are blanketing the television with.  In Florida and Iowa, Democrats still hold an edge in early voting, but by a slightly less of a margin compared to 2006.  The one state that stands out like a sore thumb from this trend?  Arizona, the scene of the crime of the virulently racist immigration law.
The firm reported that one state where Republicans appear to be doing well is Arizona, the scene of a monumental battle over illegal immigration. The Democratic share of early ballots in that state has dropped by 6.5 percent, and the Republican share has grown by 2.3 percent.
Come on, Arizona Democrats!

Once again, this much touted enthusiasm gap does not seem to be manifesting itself among the voters who are actually voting.  At least not so far.  This comes on the heels of the Newsweek poll showing Democrats leading by eight points among definite voters, and another one showing the President's approval rating rebounding as Democrats took the lead on the generic ballot.  You know what that means, Democrats?  It means that what we're doing is working.  It means we are getting our message out.

It means accomplishments matter.  It means the American people are waking up and realizing that they do not want their kids to lose their health insurance when they get sick.  It means Americans are waking up and realizing they do not want the government to be shut down as Republican leaders have promised.  It means Americans are realizing that they do not want to go back on Wall Street reform.  It means students are getting engaged and figuring out that they do not want their expanded pell grants and loans taken away.  Most importantly, Americans do not want the clock turned back to the Bush era economic policies that made the mess we are in in the first place.

It means that Americans want to see more progress, more reform, not less so.  And the American people are beginning to understand the stakes in this election.  We understand that times are tough, but also that if we are to get back to prosperity, we must do so through the hard work of repairing our economic policies, not by some gimmick of tax cuts for millionaires.  We understand that Tea Party Republican government is not a feasible alternative.  We understand that while the work in the past two years have been imperfect, they have moved us in the right direction, and we must continue to make that progress, even if on a tough, difficult path.

That is why activists have our work cut out for us.  In the next seven days, we must keep working hard, getting out the vote, and making the case for progress. The President and the first lady call on us to do just that:

Yes, we can.

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