Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM radio’s daily program “The Dean Obeidallah Show” and a columnist for The Daily Beast. Follow him @DeanObeidallah. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion articles on CNN.
Say what you will about Donald Trump (and believe me, I have), I must tip my hat to him for doing what many thought was nearly impossible: making Democrats excited about voting in a midterm election. And by doing that, Trump may actually make the Democratic Party great again.
A new Washington Post poll released Sunday echoes what we saw in a CNN poll last week: Democratic voters are revved about voting in the 2018 election. It found that in terms of enthusiasm to vote this November, Democrats have a slim two-point advantage over Republicans at 81% to 79%.
If you read that and thought that a 2 percent margin isn’t much, you’d be wrong.
You see, Republicans are typically excited to vote in midterm elections. For example, in October 2014, GOP enthusiasm to vote that year was at 75%, very close to the current number of 79%. But here’s the real story: In 2014, Democratic excitement to vote was at only 63%. It’s now up by a whopping 18 points!
And a CNN poll released Tuesday found that Democratic voter enthusiasm is at the highest rate since 2009.
In fact, now 40% of Democrats say they are “extremely enthusiastic” to vote, which is stunning considering that number was only 5 percent higher in 2008, a presidential election year in which we were poised to elect the first African-American president.
Plus among demographics who tend to vote Democratic, the young and people of color, eagerness to vote is also way up. As the Washington Post poll found enthusiasm among voters 18 to 39 years of age jumped 25 points from 2014 with people of color seeing a similar bump of 24 points.
Why does enthusiasm matter? Simple, turnout is the key to success in all elections – but that especially holds true in midterms given the traditionally lower turnout than presidential elections. For example, in the 2016 presidential election, the turnout was 55%, while in the 2014 midterms we saw only 36.4% voter turnout.
This means, as a practical matter, midterm votes actually could have more impact on results. And it generally follows that the more excited someone is to vote, the more likely they will be to will take time out of their day and cast a ballot.
Of course, it’s no guarantee of actual results but when you combine that excitement with a few other findings of the polls, it really could be bad news for those who are fans of the man in the red MAGA hat.
The CNN poll also found that margin between voters supporting Democrats and Republicans in a midterm election is at its widest since 2006, with 54% of likely voters supporting Democrats to 41% backing a Republican.
So what happened in 2006? Democrats won 30 House seats and six Senate seats. Obviously the country has changed a great deal politically since 2006 in terms of hyperpartisanship, but Democrats just need to win 23 seats to control the House and two to control the Senate. (However, in reality, the Senate is more challenging for the Democrats given the actual seats up for election this year.)
And history tells us that there’s one other poll question that could help predict if a “blue wave” is coming November 6: “Would you rather see the next Congress controlled by the Democrats to act as a check on Trump or controlled by the Republicans to support Trump’s agenda?”
The Washington Post poll tells us that 55% of all voters want Democrats to control Congress to be a check on Trump, to only 39% who want Republicans elected to help Trump.
Well, a similar question was put to voters shortly before the 2010 midterms about then-President Barack Obama. What were the election results that year? A massive “Red Wave” with Republicans winning 63 House seats and taking control of that chamber plus picking up 6 seats in the Senate.
The bottom line is that the key to success in midterm elections is enthusiasm. And thanks to Trump, we are seeing Democratic excitement at record levels. If that holds true, come election night, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer might need to send Trump a big thank you note for his help in making the Democratic Party great again.