The enthusiasm gap

August was disastrous for the Democrats — more bad economic news, President Obama effectively throwing politically vulnerable Democrats under the bus by inserting himself (clumsily) into the controversial debate over construction of a mosque near Ground Zero and polls showing that, indeed, the Democratic majority may be gone.

The new Gallup poll showing Republicans with a 10-point advantage, the largest lead ever registered for the GOP in the history of the poll, was a serious blow. It was especially shocking because the two parties had been neck-and-neck in the poll for months and Democrats had even led by six points in July.

The enthusiasm gap continues to alarm Democratic Party leaders, who hope the numbers will scare their base into coming to the polls. For months, polls have shown motivated voters favoring Republicans by margins of 20 points or more, and the new Gallup survey registered this gap at 25 points. In primaries all year, Republicans have been turning out to vote in far greater numbers than Democrats have in their own primary elections.

Democrats are not only on the defensive on the economy, they can't defend the Obama agenda and are not running on the stimulus or the landmark healthcare reform law. The latest Kaiser Family Foundation poll shows the law has lost more support and approval now stands at 43 percent.

None of this comes as a surprise to the Democrats; the party apparatus has prepared for more than a year for a tough election cycle. Vulnerable House Democrats are well-funded and -aware of the environment, say leadership sources, and are following the direction of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. More than 40 members are already up with television ads, and members have held more than 1,800 events this summer on tax cuts they have passed, their "Make It in America" manufacturing agenda, small-business aid and protecting Social Security, which falls under the description of the "danger of returning to GOP failed policies."

According to today's Wall Street Journal, The Cook Political Report is likely to soon raise to 70 the number of seats that are at risk for Democrats. The trajectory of momentum for Republicans has so far headed in one direction. Though, as one Democratic aide said, as of today there are not currently 40 seats in which Republicans are ahead. While pollsters and analysts are claiming the cake is baked, Democrats are hoping there is still more time in the oven for things to change shape.


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