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What happened to the enthusiasm Republicans had during the mid-term elections? So far in the GOP primaries we have yet to see the voter count really surpass that of the 2008 election.

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Sure, one could argue ’08 was a major election with even bigger implications because of the dire situation the economy was in. But for all the rhetoric of repealing health care reform or Pres. Barack Obama being a one-term president, Republican voters aren’t lining up to make that a reality.

In 2008, both Democrats and Republicans grew increasingly satisfied with the quality of the candidates for their party’s nomination as the campaign progressed… lackluster ratings offered by Republicans this year track more closely with how Democrats viewed their options in early 2004, according to Pew Research Center.

That’s definitely not a good sign. Last I checked, 2004 wasn’t so kind to Democrats in the run for the White House. And Republicans may be under the impression they can just pick a fiery VP candidate who can bridge that enthusiasm gap, but there are two things wrong with that — actually make that three.

(1) Lack Of Exciting VP Candidates

Three come to mind: Mike Huckabee, Chris Christie, and Sarah Palin. The chances of Huckabee giving up his fairly new Fox Show and vacating his multimillion-dollar Florida beach house to play second fiddle in the White House are fairly small. And Palin? Has their been a back-to-back failed VP candidate before? If not, chances are she would be the first. Her negatives are just too high — 59 percent of general election voters view her unfavorably. Yes, GOP voters would be excited, but it would prove to be a short fuse considering independents would run in the opposite direction.

(2) The Tea Party Is On Hiatus

Little doubt the Tea Party fired up the GOP base and was a prime reason for the strong victories in the 2010 midterm elections. But where have they been since? I can’t think of one presidential candidate they have endorsed. And to make matters worse, debate moderators haven’t really mentioned them or their core issues — debt, deficit spending, or the debt ceiling — since the summer.

(3) The GOP Base Is Split — Real Conservative vs. Real Winner

For all the talk of Republicans coalescing around one nominee, that’s not likely to happen anytime soon. Sure, Romney is on his way to being crowned the nominee, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the GOP base nationwide is behind him. Ironically, a quick end to the primaries (where Romney wins overwhelmingly and candidates begin to drop out as financing dries up) may exacerbate the problem. Part of the purpose of a drawn out primary system, where candidates stump from state to state, is so a consensus can organically emerge after voters have all the facts and feel comfortable making a decision. Crowning Romney early doesn’t shore up any doubt a voter may have about him, especially if they haven’t even had a shot to hear him speak and see his campaign up close.

But the GOP has little choice. They know Romney has the best chance of beating Obama. According to Fox News, if the election were held today, Obama would lead Romney by one point, 46-45. Such has been the case pretty much since Romney announced months ago. Most striking thing about the poll? 58 percent of Romney voters would be casting a ballot “primarily to beat Obama” than “for Romney.” Contrast that with Obama voters who, 74 percent of which, are voting pro-Obama, not anti-GOP.

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