Base Diving: Obama and Romney Both Have Enthusiasm Gaps

This article is from the archive of our partner .

Independents don't like Mitt Romney personally, and they don't think Obama has great ideas to fix the economy. Both candidates are counting on turning out their bases to win the election, both are facing problems doing that. There are many similarities between 2012 and 2004 -- a divided electorate, an incumbent president with an approval rating below 50 percent, a challenger being caricatured as a wealthy weirdo. Karl Rove has denied the similarity between 2004 and 2012, saying George W. Bush did more than turn out his base -- he also poached some of the Democratic coalition, getting 44 percent of the Latino vote and 11 percent of the black vote. But a May poll found that only a quarter of Latino voters see Romney and the Republican Party positively. Obama's approval rating among black voters is quite high. But if the election comes down to turning out the base, both candidates are struggling right now, for several reasons:

Signs of Romney base malaise. Once all of Romney's rivals for the Republican nomination dropped out of the race in late April, Romney was still performing relatively weakly among the group of hardcore voters who vote in primaries that are a foregone conclusion. Romney is the only Republican nominee since 1972 to get less than 60 percent of the vote in a state primary after all other candidates dropped out. In recent weeks, it seemed like the Republican base had more to get excited about: Romney campaigned with extreme Obama-basher Donald Trump and held a surprise press conference in front of Solyndra's headquarters. But there's danger ahead that the base will get bored again, Politico's Jonathan Allen reports. If the Supreme Court overturns Obamacare, which many people think will happen, conservatives lose the biggest thing driving them to the polls. Allen reports:

"Obamacare is the one permanent and potentially irreversible [effect] that Obama will have on the country, and if it is overturned, it makes the election, by default, less important,” a conservative operative intimately involved in the campaign who has reviewed extensive polling and focus group research on the topic told POLITICO earlier this week. “If the court overturns it, 10 million conservative activists suddenly breathe a great sigh of relief, and may not be quite as intensely active."

Signs of Obama base malaise. Obama is still pushing his jobs act, even though it has no chance of passing, because unions would benefit from all the construction projects in the package, The Weekly Standard's Jay Cost. That's why he endorsed gay marriage too, Cost says: "He has trouble with his base." If Obama maintains his 43 percent support from independents, he must push turnout to 2008 levels to win. But the Wisconsin recall -- which was over a law that targeted core Obama supporters -- Republicans had the turnout edge. If that turnout trend holds nationally, Cost says, Obama is doomed. 

Recommended Reading

The Associated Press visited Netroots Nation -- a gathering of liberal bloggers -- last week and found many sad liberals too. "I want to be happy with him," Ohio Democrat Kristine Vaughan told the Associated Press. “But I am finding that he has succumbed to the corporate influence as much as everyone else. I think he has so much potential to break out of that, but overall he has been a disappointment." She is considering writing in a candidate. Mother Jones' David Corn writes that Obama campaign manager Jim Messina will try to excite these disillusioned liberals by highlighting all the things Obama's done that conservatives hate. Such as: Obamacare. ("Let everyone know: 'I like Obamacare,'" Messina emailed supporters in March.) 

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.