This week Democrats put out a plea for precinct captains — just four months before Election Day. For those who do not pay attention to the nuts and bolts of campaigns, these are the people who are willing to do the most work over the next four months to get the people in their neighborhood to vote for the Democrats on the ballot.
While Virginia does not have voter registration by party, it is safe to assume Democrats hold at least a two to one advantage over Republicans in Arlington. That means there is always a larger pool of donors and volunteers to draw from. And by this point in the campaign cycle, local Democrats are typically closer to 100 percent when it comes to filling volunteer positions.
Around this time four years ago, a longtime Democrat activist in Arlington told me that local Democrats were not as enthusiastic about their candidate on the top of the ticket as they had been in years past. They were going to vote for him, but they were not going to go out and work extra hard. That conversation turned out to paint an accurate picture for what happened in November 2014. Mark Warner nearly lost the closest Senate race in the country despite being a heavy favorite, and John Vihstadt handily won a full term on the County Board.
Does the shortage of precinct captains now signal a lower than anticipated Democrat enthusiasm advantage this November?
It could represent overconfidence. All the national polls say Democrats will sweep the elections this November just like they did in Virginia last November. That translates to an idea that “we do not have to work hard because we are going to win anyway. And if John Vihstadt wins, we still have the other four County Board seats.”
It could be “outrage” fatigue. It is hard to stay mad all the time, particularly when the economy is humming along. It may also be hard to convince some to associate with the people who are mad all the time.
Or it could be nothing other than a confluence of unlucky events. This year people could have moved, burnt out or had unforeseen life events at a greater rate than usual. We have elections every year here and we keep adding precincts, which means you constantly have to grow and refresh your team.
We will not know for sure until Nov. 6.