Turnout Won't Be a Problem This Fall

At The Washington Post, Chris Cillizza suggests that, like the Republican Party, President Obama might have a turnout problem in the fall:

A review of the states that have also held Democratic contests this year shows turnout is down sharply from the last time a Democratic president was running largely unopposed for renomination — 1996.

Democratic turnout is down significantly in five of eight states that held similar contests in 1996 and 2012 (and where data are available), and six of eight overall, compared to Bill Clinton’s 1996 reelection campaign.

In general, I’m skeptical that either party will have a turnout problem in the fall. As is almost always the case, partisans on both sides will close ranks when the general election rolls around, and the stakes become more clear. Indeed, the mere fact of having someone to run against will energize turnout, especially when it comes to Republicans, who are eager to drive President Obama from the White House. For now, I can’t blame Republican voters for staying away from the polls, it’s hard to muster enthusiasm for a race where the candidates are far from electrifying, and virtually indistinguishable, as far as their rhetoric is concerned.

On a related note, it’s important to recognize the extent to which the eventual Republican nominee will have a good shot at winning the presidency, even if he comes out of the primaries in the worst possible way, with electoral damage and the mistrust of conservative voters. In almost every presidential election where there isn’t a third-party candidate, major party nominees can count on receiving 45 percent of the vote, give or take a few percentage points. What’s more, presidential elections are highly sensitive to exogenous events like economic crises and foreign-policy incidents. Which is to say that any Republican who wins the nomination—even an extremist figure like Rick Santorum—is within a stone's throw of the White House.

Just something to consider, when you feel yourself getting optimistic about Barack Obama’s chances.