The Debate

Are Republicans Excited?

Are Republicans suffering an enthusiasm gap? Results from New Hampshire will offer a useful insight.

It will be interesting to see what the turnout is like in New Hampshire today. One of the things Republicans will be looking for is a similar level of enthusiasm among Republican primary voters to that Democrats demonstrated in the 2008 race that saw Barack Obama elected.

That didn’t really happen in Iowa – the turnout was only slightly up, and front runner Mitt Romney appears to have won a few less votes than he managed in 2008, when he came in second behind Mike Huckabee (John McCain was the eventual nominee, but didn’t really compete in Iowa).

The Los Angeles Times reports that New Hampshire Secretary of State Bill Gardner has estimated that a quarter of a million people will turn out for the Republicans today, which would exceed the 240,000 that did so in 2008. This would certainly be encouraging for Republicans, many of whom have expressed concerns over whether Romney can energize voters in the autumn.

It’s early in the day, but so far I’m not seeing the levels of enthusiasm that I’ve seen before in Manchester. I’m basing this on some admittedly unscientific observations and conversations, but there doesn’t seem quite the activity that there has been in previous races. At the polling station I went to this morning, there were perhaps 15 volunteers for various candidates (mostly Ron Paul) standing outside with signs. One woman I spoke to said there are usually far more people to wade through (and feel intimidated by).

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Driving around this morning, the other thing I noticed compared with last time I was here is that there are far fewer signs. Usually overnight hordes of volunteers drive around posting thousands of signs along streets, in front of buildings, sometimes strategically to distract from their opponents’ signs. But again, that just doesn’t seem as much the case, and again it’s only a small observation, but one confirmed by a local.

There’s still plenty of time, and the weather is very mild (for here, at least). I’ll be interested to see what Manchester’s results show when they star t coming through (probably around 8.30 pm EST).