A look at the early vote, nationally and in Nevada

A Pew Research Poll finds that Mitt Romney leads President Obama among those who have already voted by a margin of 50-43. One-fifth of likely voters have already cast their ballots, according to Pew. However, Pew deems Romney’s margin with this group statistically insignificant due to the small sample size.

Overall, Pew found Romney and Obama tied nationally at 47 percent each. To the extent that Romney is doing better among those who voted early, it may reflect the greater intensity of his support. A recent Gallup poll had Romney ahead among early voters by 52-46 among early voters.

At this point in the 2008 election, Obama held a big margin with early voters, according to Pew. In fact, he led John McCain by 19 points (53% to 34%). It is encouraging to see that, if anything, the tables have been turned so far in this cycle.

Of course, the big question is how the early vote is trending in the battleground states. Here, we find both campaigns claiming an advantage. Typically, we find Team Obama citing an edge in the early vote, while Team Romney shows Obama lagging well behind his 2008 edge, and argues that its early voters tend to be new voters, not folks who would automatically have turned up on election day. It’s difficult for me to evaluate these kinds of competing claims, which clearly contain a fair amount of spin.

However, this analysis by the RNC of early voting in the swing state of Nevada, though probably too triumphalist, seems helpful:

Through eleven days of early voting in Nevada, the huge lead that the Democrats were supposed to run up has not materialized. In fact, the GOP has cut substantially into Democrats’ margins, positioning Mitt Romney for victory on Tuesday. After the first few days of early voting, Democrats and their pundit pals were crowing, but their big talk is not matched by the numbers. Despite all the chatter from the Obama campaign about voter registration, Republicans have turned out a larger share of our newly registered voters in absentee and early voting while Democrats are just turning out the same old Election Day voters.

In order for GOP candidates to win in Nevada, we must do four things: cut into Democrats’ margins in Clark County, win Washoe County, drive up turnout in rural Nevada, and win independents. All four things are happening. Let’s take a look:

Clark County

Republicans narrowed the gap on early voting in Clark County by almost 9 points compared to 2008. (Republicans up 3.4%, Democrats down 5.4%.) Republicans have experienced 33 percent growth in Clark County early voters compared to this point in 2008, adding over 27,000 voters to our total. Democrats have grown by less than 8 percent, adding fewer than 12,000 voters to their total. Republicans are on pace to come out of Clark County early voting down fewer than 60,000 votes out of nearly 470,000 cast. This is a huge shift from 2008, where Republicans trailed by nearly 84,000 votes out of only 390,000 cast. It also is far short of what pundits like Nevada politics guru Jon Ralston predicted.

Washoe County

Republicans narrowed the gap on early voting in Washoe County by 14 points compared to 2008. (Republicans up 6.3%, Democrats down 7.7%.) Republicans have experienced 66 percent growth in Washoe County early voters compared to this point in 2008, adding nearly 13,000 voters to our total. Democrats have grown by less than 18 percent, adding barely 5,000 voters to their total. Currently the Democrats hold a slight edge in early vote and absentee returns in Washoe, but we’ve cut into their gains every day and anticipate overtaking them by the end of early voting. In 2008 we did not win a single day of early voting; this year we are poised to win overall.

Rural Nevada

Early voting turnout is up compared to 2008 in rural Nevada, which is strongly Republican. Turnout is already over 116 percent of 2008 early voting in the small rural counties of Eureka and Pershing. Altogether, through the first ten days of early voting, turnout in rural Nevada was already 83 percent of 2008. The final days of early voting are the strongest for Republicans and have the largest turnout overall.

Independents

Over 82,000 independents have already voted or have ballots in hand. PPP (10/24) shows Romney leading among independents by 9 points.

Election Day

Republicans’ dominance on Election Day, through the 72-Hour Program, will put us over the top. In 2012, Romney Victory volunteers have already knocked on nearly 600,000 doors and called over 1.8 million targeted voters — twice as many phone calls and seven times as many door knocks as were done at this point four years ago.

Beyond our superior program, we will be well-positioned to turn out more voters on Election Day because there will be more Republican likely voters to turn-out. Democrats have cannibalized their most likely voters to try to maintain their margins in early voting. Through eleven days of early voting, over 57 (!!) percent of Democrats who voted in all four of the last four general elections had already requested an absentee ballot or voted early. That means Republicans have 30 percent more of our most reliable voters still available on Election Day, which will put even more power into our already-dominant 72-Hour Program.

In short, the GOP is meeting or exceeding all metrics to be successful on Election Day in Nevada, and with enthusiasm on our side we are feeling confident that Mitt Romney is positioned to take Nevada’s electoral votes on Tuesday.

We shall see.

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