White House: Dems gaining ground on GOP in voter enthusiasm

Over the past few weeks, Democrats have made steady progress in narrowing the voters enthusiasm gap with Republicans, the White House claimed Sunday.

This past week, President Obama attended a 26,000 person rally in Madison, the home of the University of Wisconsin, and a rally for young Democratic activists in Washington, D.C. at which hip-hop artist B.o.B performed. Both events were designed to motivate young, first-time voters who helped propel President Obama and congressional Democrats to convincing victories in 2008. 

"We have seen, I think -- that we are beginning to make up the enthusiasm gap," White House communications director Dan Pfeiffer said on a conference call with reporters. "We are making progress every day."

In part spurred by energy among Tea Party activists, registered Republicans have consistently said they are more enthusiastic about voting in November than Democrats have. As a result, the GOP expected to make large gains on the Democrats' majorities in the House and Senate and maybe even take control of the lower chamber.

Enthusiasm on the Democrats' side has dampened partially because of the slow pace of the economic recovery and with unemployment still sitting near 10 percent 20 months after President Obama took office. 

Asked if the Democrats are forgoing maintaining their big-tent majority by focusing on energizing the base, Pfeiffer denied they were ignoring vulnerable, centrist Democrats running in traditionally Republican districts.

Pfeiffer pointed to the Democrats narrowing their Gallup generic ballot gap from a 10-point deficit to the GOP, "which caused Washington to freak out," to a statistical ties over the past month. But those polls still show Republicans with a 20-point lead in voter enthusiasm.

Republican National Committee communications director Doug Heye said that the numbers don't back up the White House's claim.

"In 2006, Democrats had 3 million more primary voters than Republicans. In 2010, that number has turned on its head, with more than 3 million more Republicans voting in primaries than Democrats," he said. "So what we see isn’t so much an enthusiasm gap than a turnout gap."

Heye noted that Democrats had plenty of chances to show up with competitive primaries in Arkansas, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio and Florida.

Pfeiffer also downplayed the results of a recent NBC/Wall Street Journal poll that showed that half of Americans have no opinion or don't know who House Minority Leader John BoehnerJohn BoehnerRyan has little margin for error in Speaker vote Top Lobbyists 2016: Hired Guns The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (R-Ohio) is despite efforts by the White House to elevate BoehnerJohn BoehnerRyan has little margin for error in Speaker vote Top Lobbyists 2016: Hired Guns The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE as a public pariah for election season.

"No, I think that -- we're not focused on whether or not people know who John Boehner is or who [Senate Minority Leader] Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellFive takeaways from Florida Senate debate Liberal groups call for delaying cures bill to next year Conservative groups urge against extending energy tax breaks MORE is," he said, saying that Democrats want to make sure that "voters around the country know what direction Republicans want to take this country."