Republicans Keep Enthusiasm Edge After Health Law Decision

“We know what we’re fighting for. The Democrats aren’t so sure.”

-- An adviser to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign talking to Power Play about voter enthusiasm and turnout.

In the wake of a landmark Supreme Court decision upholding President Obama’s 2010 health law, Republican and Democratic voters are both more engaged, but it’s the GOP that holds the enthusiasm edge as the November election draws nearer.


Obama and his fellow Democrats have been delivering blistering character attacks on Republican Mitt Romney for more than three months. Romney has been piling scorn on Obama over the worsening economy for even longer.

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    And after all that, the presidential race remains where it began: Dead even, with about 6 percent of voters still undecided.

    The latest Quinnipiac University poll shows the race still deadlocked at 46 percent for Obama and 43 percent for Romney, essentially unchanged since November. Romney is not only inside the margin of error for the poll, but since undecided voters tend to break against incumbents, the former Massachusetts Gov. is in good position for a presidential challenger.

    Obama, though, believes that by running what looks likely to be the most negative re-election campaign of the modern era he can hold down Romney’s advantage with late-deciding swing voters, or at least get them to stay home.

    The scenario that the Obama campaign is angling for is one in which the president, like his predecessor, overcomes dragging approval ratings and national discontentment to eke out a narrow victory in a contest between the electoral bases of both parties.

    Obama’s situation is substantially worse this year than George W. Bush’s was in 2004, but he has some advantages. Obama, using his personal popularity and favorable press coverage as a shield to run an intensely negative campaign, is trying to use an early campaign cash advantage to destroy Romney’s reputation.

    If these constant attacks don’t convince moderate, persuadable voters to come out and vote for Obama they may at least keep swing voters home. Obama then believes that his massive campaign organization and the help of labor unions will maximize Democratic turnout and give him the edge over Romney in key swing states.

    Romney, meanwhile, is looking for a national referendum on Obama’s handling of the economy and is hoping to see independent, swing voters break his way, as they did for Obama in 2008 and then for Republican candidates during the 2010 midterms.

    Obama is hoping for a return to the old political norm in the United States a “50/50” nation in which traditional advantages for Democrats and incumbents carry him to a narrow victory. Romney is hoping for another wave election in which voters, anxious about the future and hungry for change in Washington, are in an angry, anti-incumbent mood.

    But the Quinnipiac poll raises some questions about the Obama strategy.

    The trend line has been good for Romney in polls since the June 28 ruling on Obama’s health law. That decision, which upheld the law on the grounds that its core component was a tax, not an insurance regulation, has become a flash point in the election. The anger on the right over the verdict, combined with voter frustration with the worsening state of the economy, has given Romney a boost.

    He may yet get his wave election. Romney’s war chest is growing fast and the Republican National Committee is gearing up its ground game, and Democrats aren’t nearly as fired up as Republicans.

    Republicans have held an enthusiasm edge over Democrats since the beginning of Obama’s presidency. That edge, along with a traditional GOP edge in voter turnout, explains the outsized GOP victory in 2010. The red team usually punches above its weight because of Democratic voter apathy, but it has been intense in the era of Obama. United by their opposition to the president’s agenda, Republicans have been fighting mad.

    And the high-court ruling did nothing to change that. Quinnipiac found 47 percent of Republicans said they were more enthusiastic to vote in November than usual, compared to 32 percent for Democrats. That’s about the same advantage the GOP has had since last fall.

    That Democrats continue to lag in this measure by so much suggests that the president, who has been trying to pump up his base for months with calls for tax hikes on the wealthy, a temporary amnesty program for certain illegal immigrants, an endorsement of same-sex marriage and other moves to appeal to the left, still hasn’t gotten his party “fired up and ready to go.”

    Part of the problem is likely among moderate Democrats who feel shut out by an administration that refused to move to the middle after the midterm shellacking and part may derive from complacency among liberals who don’t believe Romney is a threat.
    But if Romney can survive this spring and summer offensive by the Obama Democrats in good enough fashion to win moderate independents, this huge enthusiasm advantage could do for him what it did for House Republicans in 2010: roll in the red tide.

    The Day in Quotes

    “Governor Romney has experience owning companies that were called pioneers in the business of outsourcing. My experience has been working with outstanding members of labor and great managers to save the American auto industry.”

    -- President Obama campaigning in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

    “…this president has been outsourcing a good deal of American jobs himself by putting money into energy companies - solar and wind energy companies - that end up making their products outside the United States. If there's an outsourcer-in-chief it's the president of the United States, not the guy who's running to replace him.”

    -- Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney campaigning in Grand Junction, Colo.

    “This has nothing to do with me wanting to punish success. We love folks getting rich.  I hope Malia and Sascha go out there and, if that's what they want to do, that's great.  But I do want to make sure that everybody else gets that chance as well.”

    -- President Obama campaigning in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, renewing his call for higher taxes on top earners.

    “The very idea of raising taxes on small business and job creators at the very time we need more jobs is the sort of thing only an extreme liberal could come up with.”

    -- Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney campaigning in Grand Junction, Colo.

    "It's a game we play. Every American tries to find the way to get the most deductions they can. I see nothing wrong with playing the game because we set it up to be a game."

    -- Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., talking to reporters about Democratic complaints about presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s use of offshore bank accounts to shield his wealth from federal taxes.

    “Nerves are setting in, and they’re looking for a fall guy.”

    -- A Democratic strategist talking to the Washington Post about complaints within the party that Charlotte-based Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers, a Democratic bundler who was leading the charge to raise corporate cash for the struggling Democratic National Convention, was coming up short. The paper reported that the host committee for the convention is $16 million short of its $36 million goal.

    “Under the proposed law, concealed handgun licenses would be acceptable forms of photo I.D.  But student I.D.s would not.  Many of those without I.D.s would have to travel great distances to get them.  And some would struggle to pay for the documents they might need to obtain them.  We call those poll taxes.”

    -- Attorney General Eric Holder addressing the NAACP in Houston, Texas, a state Holder is trying to block from requiring voters to show identification.

    “Everybody calls me ‘Middle Class Joe.’ You remember they did that the day I got to the Senate. And it wasn't meant as a compliment. It was meant I'm not sophisticated; I'm just a middle-class guy.”

    -- Vice President Joe Biden speaking to The National Council of La Raza (The Race), a liberal Hispanic activist group.

    And Now, A Word From Charles

    “I think what is so impressive about this is how small a game Obama is playing.  Here is a guy who comes in 2008 -- hope and change, change the way Washington works.  He passes $1 trillion stimulus, the largest spending in American history.  He does a health care bill that is one-sixth of the U.S. economy.  He attempts cap and trade, which would control the energy industry.  He does Dodd-Frank, which regulates finances.  He wants to change America.  What he is proposing here is the center of the economic plan for the next term, a partial extension of tax cuts for one year just on part of the American people.”

    -- Charles Krauthammer on “Special Report with Bret Baier.”

    Chris Stirewalt is digital politics editor for Fox News, and his POWER PLAY column appears Monday-Friday on Catch Chris Live online daily at 11:30amET  at