WHEN YOU hear the Democratic standard bearer talking about his views being the same as Romney on Social Security, then see an email confirming his contention, it’s hard to get excited when both men running for president intend to tinker with the social safety net.

Only 73 percent who support Obama say they are “extremely likely” to vote, compared to 86 percent who back Romney. Likewise, 84 percent of Republicans say they are extremely likely to vote, compared to 76 percent of Democrats. Among those extremely likely to vote, Romney actually leads Obama 52 percent to 46 percent. That’s up from a 2-point lead last week. Obama led 50 percent to 47 percent among this group three weeks ago. – Battleground Tracking Poll: Dems less thusiastic

Chuck Todd’s analysis of the numbers on “Meet the Press” was the best example of the challenge of the President.

MR. TODD: Well, remember, this was before the debate. All right, let me see Wall Street Journal poll and we have a registered voter model that had the president up seven, but we had a likely voter model that had the president only up three at the time 49-46. So the question is why. What is going on that has Republicans doing better and becoming more likely voters? Well, it’s simply an enthusiasm gap. And we’re seeing it across the board. Look at here in this first one; 79 percent of Republicans call themselves extremely interested in this election. On a scale of 1 to 10, that means they say there are a 9 or 10 on interest in the election, 73 percent of Democrats– look at four years ago. It was a 13-point gap in favor of the Democrats.

Let me go through some various voting groups. This is an important voting group. Seniors are an important voting group to Mitt Romney now. He leads them by about 10 points in our NBC Wall Street general poll. Look at this in engagement in the election. Four years ago, it was 81 percent, pretty high, even higher this time at 87 percent. And Romney is doing better among seniors than McCain did. Let me go to an important voting group for the president. Young voters. Look at this engagement level. 52 percent now that call themselves of– of voters, 18 to 34 call themselves extremely interested in this election. Four years ago, it was 72 percent. That 20-point gap. The president wins young voters by huge margins. He is winning them by some 20-plus points. But if you don’t have this kind of enthusiasm, they’re not going to show up to the polls. And then let me give you this last one here, because this is I think the most important one and that’s Hispanics. The president is winning Hispanics by 50 points. He hit the 70 percent mark. However, look at this in terms of interest in the election. 59 percent now. It was 77 percent. What does that mean? The president got 65 percent, I believe, of the Hispanics four years ago. So even though he’s going to get more Hispanics, if less of them turn out, it’s a net zero. And yet you look at Republican enthusiasm up, senior enthusiasm up, it’s a huge problem. And by the way, all of this, pre-debate.

The demographic issue is what weighs Mitt Romney down. However, if the enthusiasm continues to lag with Democrats, with Republicans rising, can Romney overcome this disadvantage? Not yet.

If Barack Obama blows the second debate that could change.

Anecdotally, in northern Virginia, especially in Alexandria, since the debate the Romney signs have exploded across the landscape.