The GOP's Enthusiasm Gap

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Some troubling news for the GOP was reported by the Globe this morning: Fewer Republicans voted in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary then in 2008 and 2000, the last two elections without an incumbent. Low turnout is bad news, indicating that voters are less than enthused about the party’s candidates, a concern echoed by a recent CBS News poll showing that 58 percent of Republican voters would like more choices.

More choices? Uh oh. That’s scary stuff for frontrunner Mitt Romney, who’s struggled to consolidate the party behind him. This year was supposed to be the year for the GOP: The economy is still struggling, unemployment is still at 8.5 percent, the Republicans did great in 2010, and Obama is still in the White House. How can Republicans not be excited about their chances in 2012?

Even the one bright side of the poll — the strong participation of independent voters in both contests — is worrying. The independents swung for Ron Paul in both New Hampshire (32 percent) and Iowa (43 percent). Paul voters, independent or otherwise, are less likely to fall in lockstep with the eventual nominee, Romney or otherwise. If Paul decides to launch a third-party bid, all bets are off.

The best news for Romney is that Jon Huntsman is dropping out of the race today and backing him. When asked by a New York Times for a comment on that news at a restaurant last night, Massachusetts political consultant Eric Fernstrom delivered the quote of the year: “No comment. But the bread pudding is outstanding.”