For many Democrats, this week has been a rapture of Republican dysfunction. Just since Sunday, the Trump campaign has been buffeted by scandals involving possible illegal cash payments from a pro-Russian Ukraine government to the campaign’s chair, staff shakeups that have put disgraced FOX News chair Roger Ailes and controversial Breitbart CEO Steve Bannon in key positions, and a raft of swing state polling that looks deeply troubling for Trump. It’s the kind of news and numbers that would make Hillary Clinton giddy—if Hillary Clinton was the giddy type.
But behind closed doors, there is a shared, quiet paranoia among Democratic strategists and voters alike: don’t get too publicly confident… or voters won’t show up in November. The thinking is that if too many Democrats believe the Trump threat has been neutralized, they won’t turnout for Clinton. Democratic voters, after all, are not as reliable as Republicans—a point proven every mid-term election.
And the importance of oppositional threat as motivating factor would seem to be historic this year in particular, given how much of this season’s Democratic enthusiasm is built on the indignation, fear, and shame around a Trump administration, rather than a particular enthusiasm for a Clinton presidency. Guy Cecil, chief strategist for the pro-Clinton Super PAC Priorities USA, explained that, according to his group’s research, “any sense of an enthusiasm gap has essentially vanished. When we compare it to 2012, by almost every measure, we are equal to or ticking slightly above the enthusiasm models in the 2012 election.” This is, Cecil explained, is largely due to “some combination of anger, fear and concern about Trump.”