COMMENTARY | Although there seems to be a 50/50 chance that presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney could win the general election in November, members of his own party are becoming disinterested in the 2012 campaign. It may not sound like much of a problem, but if disinterest actualizes into noninvolvement — i.e., not voting — Romney could have a real problem on Election Day.
According to a Pew Research Center poll released Thursday, 67 percent of those surveyed said that they believe the 2012 presidential race will become “exhausting” by the first week of November. At the same time, 63 percent said it would become annoying by then, and 56 percent said it has already been too long and dull.
When respondents were divided into party affiliation groupings, only 33 percent of the Republicans said that they found the current race interesting. That number reflects a 19 percent decrease in interest since March. The results could simply show a lull due to the relative quiet of the campaigning factions at present as compared to the free-wheeling, accusation-slinging, negative campaigning going on between former Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, Texas congressman Ron Paul, and Romney during the Republican primaries. But if that disinterest continues, it very well could transform into a low Republican voter turnout on Election Day.
For the Romney campaign, adding to the bad news of growing disinterest among Republican voters is the increased interest among Democratic voters. From March to June, the interest rate among Democrats improved from 36 percent to 45 percent. Of course, the rise could be attributable to Obama finally having an opponent — or at least a single opponent — to target. Still, interest is below 50 percent.
But there remains four months in which Mitt Romney and his campaign can regenerate interest in winning the White House. And that regeneration most likely will not actually begin until the Republican National Convention in late July, when Romney will formally accept the nomination of his party to run for the presidency.
And yet, as gloomy as the numbers might be for the GOP at present, it must be pointed out that in the head-to-head polls (as tracked by Real Clear Politics), even though President Obama has led most in the past two months, the polling has often been within the margin of error. So not finding the 2012 election interesting might not affect voting turnout at all. They might even turn out in record numbers. Voters — and Republicans specifically — might have found the presidential race simply uninteresting.