In 2008, in Idaho's 1st U.S. House district, Republican Bill Sali lost his office to Democrat Walt Minnick. In 2010, Minnick in turn lost it to Republican Raul Labrador. Question: Which of these Republicans, Sali or Labrador, would you suppose won about 45,000 more votes than the other in these elections?
You can guess where this is going: Sali, in losing, took 171,687 votes, while Labrador, winning this year - in a strong win by a strong margin - took 126,231 votes: Far fewer.
Look closely at the vote totals in the two elections and you find what sure looks like evidence in Idaho of that vaunted enthusiasm gap: A relatively larger number of Democrats not voting in 2010 who had in 2008. The closer you look, the more it looks that way.
For example. While the general election vote for the Republican nominee dropped from 2008 to 2010 by 26.5%, Minnick's own vote fell by 41.9% (from about 176,000 to about 102,000) - same guy, running from a position of incumbency on a core platform not all that different from what he'd campaigned on the first time. A whole lot of people who voted for him earlier, took a pass this time.
Of course, that was true to some extent across the board: Idahoans cast fewer votes in 2010 than 2008, since turnout always declines in non-presidential election years. Overall in Idaho, it dropped by 32.8%. The Republican drop in the 1st district was less than that (26.5%), and Minnick's was more (41.9%).
This also seems to be true in the governor's race, which provides in some ways a cleaner comparison since in Idaho all governor's races are off-presidential. The actual vote received by Democratic nominee Keith Allred this year (148,300) was down by 25.4% from that received four years ago by Democrat Jerry Brady (198,845). But Republican C.L. "Butch" Otter, who won, saw his vote total moderately rise from 237,437 to 266,992 - up by 12.4%, even as all sorts of anecdotal evidence had seemed to show his popularity in decline. The 2010 Republican "tide" might account for some of Otter's boost, but should it account for such a massive drop among Democratic-leaning voters?
You can find lots of other examples among other candidates, notably among Democrats.
From election to election, of course, some people may change their minds, or their sides. But that happens less often than a decision to simply sit this one out. Look at the numbers again, and see what conclusions you draw.
We'll revisit this later.