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Hidden Republican edge in 2010: voter intensity

May 13, 2010 |  8:56 am

Soon to be House Speaker Newt Gingrich unveils Republicans' 1994 campaign pitch- a Contract with America
The math is pretty clear. Republicans need 41 seats to win back control of the House, topple House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and make life even more difficult for President Obama.

As former Bush political guru Karl Rove (the master of the obvious) points out in a recent Wall Street Journal column, traditionally the party in power loses about 24 seats, and lots of anti-incumbent fervor puts Republicans in reach of exceeding that. In fact House minority leader John Boehner argues that 100 seats -- nearly one-fourth of the House -- are in play for Republicans.

Of course the Democrats are not without resources. Pelosi is a fierce competitor, a keen political strategist and will deploy resources where necessary to help vulnerable Democrats. Ditto Obama, who remains enormously popular while some of his policies are not. And money, they still have lots of money.

But the secret weapon for Republicans this year could be passion among their voters. The latest Fox/Opinion Dynamics poll reports two-thirds of Republicans are "extremely" or "very" interested in the midterms, compared to only half of Democrats. And the just-released Wall Street Journal/NBC poll found that voters who were most interested in the November elections favor Republican control of Congress by a 20-point margin -- the highest number all year on that question.

Will this intensity gap make a difference in November?

Republican pollster Ed Goeas thinks it will. He notes a recent George Washington University Battleground Poll showing that the intensity gap has doubled from the 1994 election, when Republicans swept Democrats from power in the Newt Gingirch "Contract With America" campaign. "Republicans should expect an advantage based on history and precedent," he told U.S. News & World Report. "However, it certainly appears they will have an additional advantage in terms of composition of the electorate."

-- Johanna Neuman

Photo: Then-Minority Whip Newt Gingrich rallies Republican candidates in September 1994 on the eve of their recapture of the House after more than 40 years of Democratic rule. Credit: Associated Press.

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