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Democrats Will Be Watching Denver (And We’ll Be There)

Interest in the Democratic Convention will be far higher than four years ago, according to a Pew survey out today. Fully 59% of the American public reports interest in the Democratic convention, compared with 48% reporting interest in the Republican convention. From the Boston/New York conventions of 2004, reported interest in the Dem convention in 2008 has flipped from –10 to +11. Interestingly, this switch is entirely due to enthusiasm on the Democratic side, since interest in the Republican convention is fractionally higher than last time also. American interest for the Democratic convention is also higher now than in 1992.

Independents and a base enthusiasm edge are providing the difference. While 59% and 48% represent the percentage of all Americans interested in each convention, there is both an enthusiasm gap among the bases (79% of Dems compared with 70% of Reps) as well as a gap in enthusiasm among independents, who are more interested in the Democratic convention by 12 points.

Another key finding in Pew’s survey, Clinton supporters are highly interested in her convention speech. What she says and how she handles the moment should have a significant impact on some of her supporters who have been slow to support Obama. As the findings show, her supporters still care more about what she has to say than what the party’s nominee does.

Though Pew didn’t ask this question, I’d suspect many of Hillary’s supporters will be paying attention to Bill for “the real clues” as to how the Clintons feel. If Hillary gives a warm, embracing speech but Bill is tepid in his support, that’s the kind of thing that her voters may well see as “she’s being the consummate professional, he’s signaling us about what they really feel about this guy.”

FiveThirtyEight interest in the conventions will be higher this year too, since we’ll be covering them on location. I asked Nate what angles he thought we should pursue, and he said, “I dunno. Like, politics and stuff.” I’ll let him tell you more about that this weekend, but I will be looking specifically for firsthand information about the ground game for each side. We also seek free palatial accommodations with convenient access to the site, so if our loyal Colorado and Minnesota readers could make that happen for us, that’d be great.

Incidentally, and this isn’t worth a whole separate post, Obama may be holding off on the VP announcement – even though he acknowledges he’s decided – because right now he’s sitting in a sweet spot. The whole political press is hanging on every word and tea leaf while Obama hammers McCain for a gift-wrapped gaffe. From an Obama perspective, there’s not much downside. Though Halperin implies Obama doesn’t care about setting folks’ ringtones off in the middle of the night.

One additional gift-wrapped line for Tim Kaine, were it to be him: he would get to call himself “one of McCain’s many governors.”