Are Democrats doing better? Are they closing the enthusiasm gap? Why are Republicans exuding less confidence about the Democratic Party's scheduled root canal on November 2?
There is some obvious perception-framing here. Republicans want to make sure that a 45-seat pick-up is seen as a "win" for the party, particularly when pundits like Charlie Cook talk about a landscape with more than 70 seats in play. (Of course, Cook knows that Democrats will win many of the seats, but when people hear 70, they expect 70). Precisely because the 2010 election is not a vote of confidence for Republican leaders in Congress -- it has become in so many races the opposite -- if Republicans win, they will need to claim a mandate. It won t appear. Expectations must be managed.
By the same token, nothing will hurt Democratic turnout more than a Democratic Party that telegraphs losses. If the election seems more competitive than it is, more Democrats will vote. If it seems as if their votes will be wasted, if Republicans are simply going to win regardless, then they won't. This is basic political psychology, but it always seem to kick in in early October.
Secondly, the Republicans have succeeded in defining their party in a way that is helping Democrats get clarity about the stakes of the election. This is to be expected in an era of intense polarization. It is why the national Democratic Party is not running for something; it is why they are running against the Palin-O'Donnell-Beck-Paul Ryan-Austerity party.