In his most recent column, The Nation's Chris Hayes expands on the argument that the enthusiasm gap has more to do with the Democratic Party's demographics than it does with the action -- or inaction -- of activists and establishment figures:
...the people with the most faith in the president and the Democratic Party are the hardest hit by the continuing economic disaster; it's this brute fact that's driving the so-called enthusiasm gap between liberals and conservatives. More than frustration with the lack of a public option or anger at a White House that seems to relish insulting the "professional left," the flagging enthusiasm among Obama's '08 base is the product of a kind of cognitive dissonance between hope and reality.
Riffing off of this, Digby worries that this might carry over into the 2012 presidential election:
I assume they [the White House] believe that "when the economy turns around" that enthusiasm will return in time for Morning in America in 2012. I just hope they have a Plan B.
I think it's pretty safe to assume that enthusiasm will pick up if the economy picks up in 2012; not only is there a tight correlation between presidential election outcomes and economic performance -- incumbents almost always win in good economic conditions, which implies an engaged base -- but presidential contests are one of the most high profile events in American life. By and large, even apathetic voters are clued in to political events and the importance of voting. With good economic performance, President Obama will almost certainly cruise to re-election, even if Republicans decide to get serious and nominate someone competent, like Mitch Daniels or Mitt Romney.
Of course, the opposite is also true; if 2012 comes and the economy is struggling, we would do well to prepare ourselves for our new Tea Party overlords.
-- Jamelle Bouie