MOTIVATIONAL SEMINAR… The modest shift towards Kerry in several recent national polls is certainly a hopeful sign for Democrats. But fundamentally, the race is still tied, as today’s LA Times poll shows. So the big question remains the same as it has been for weeks, even months: which side is more motivated? Which group of voters will brave hailstorms and locust swarms to vote for their man, and which side is so disgusted with their’s that they’ll stay home?

Pollsters have a notoriously tough time measuring such voter “intensity.” Further muddling the picture is the difficulty of assessing which party has done a better job registering new voters and organizing efforts to get their voters to the polls. But going in, I think it’s fair to say that most observers presumed that the Democratic side would have a significant motivational edge. That’s certainly what I’ve been (nervously) assuming.

Well, apparently, we’re right, according to a couple of indirect measures. One comes from a Newsweek poll that E.J. Dionne quotes in his column today. According to the poll, “Kerry?s supporters view this race as more vital than the presi?dent?s, suggesting they are likely to turnout in large numbers come Election Day. In the new poll, fully 77 percent of Kerry voters say Nov. 2 is the ?single most important election? of their lifetime (37 percent), or more important than most other elections (40 percent). In comparison, 27 percent of Bush supporters view this as the single most important elec?tion of their lifetime, while 35 percent view it as more important than most other elec?tions. Thirty-five percent of Bush support?ers and 21 percent of Kerry supporters say this election is about as important as any other.”

Another indication that turnout may be different than than the current even-Steven numbers suggest comes from a poll in yesterday’s Washington Post, as noted by Andrew Sullivan. While respondents to the poll in general split about evenly on the question of whether President Bush deserves to be reelected, first time voters “oppose reelection by 58 percent to 37 percent.” If this statistic is any indication of what the millions of newly-registered voters, in swing states like Ohio and Nevada, are really thinking, Bush is in trouble.

Paul Glastris

Paul Glastris is the editor in chief of the Washington Monthly. A former speechwriter for President Bill Clinton, he is writing a book on America’s involvement in the Greek War of Independence.