Early Voting Scorecard: Obama Ahead in Iowa and Nevada
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With more than 10 million people already casting a ballot, early voting is on pace likely to exceed the 41 million cast in 2008. Next week will be crunch time as millions of people across the country cast ballots.
Everyone wants to know who is winning. In my commentary below I explain why I conclude Obama has narrow leads in Iowa and Nevada, Romney has a narrow lead in North Carolina, and in the remainder the early vote is not providing a clear direction yet. There is still ample time for conditions to change, but it will be increasingly difficult to do so as more votes pour in.
There are instructive patterns other than the horse race. The patterns of early voting in Florida and Ohio suggest that Obama supporters are successfully overcoming limitations in early voting enacted by those states' Republican governments.
To date, early voters have been primarily high propensity voters; strong partisans who know who they will vote for. In the coming week, the early voting volume will pick up substantially, and we will see more of the lower to moderate propensity voters who are more persuadable enter the early electorate. In some of these close states, there is still time for the candidates to gain advantage though early voting as we reach the critical home stretch.
The data for this analysis can be found here, where I track the early vote in real time, as much as that is humanly possible.
Iowa continues to firm up as more votes come in, now with 423,586 voted. Registered Republicans have been making gains on Democrats during the early voting period in terms of party registration. But on Monday of this week Republicans peaked among absentee ballot requests, at 30.9 percent. By Thursday, their share of ballot requests dropped to 30.8 percent. The Democrats have been losing ground, too, starting the week at 44.9 percent and ending it at 44.0 percent. The gain is among those who do not registered with a party, something I discuss below.
Romney needs to make up more ground than he has among the early vote -- or have a great showing on Election Day -- in order to win Iowa. Obama won the state by 9.5 percentage points in 2008, when registered Democrats were 46.9 percent of early voters and Republicans were 28.9 percent. Closing the early voting gap by a couple of points is not enough, especially since the level of early voting will likely exceed 2008. The Iowa early vote thus confirms the polling showing an Obama lead, perhaps smaller than 2008.
Currently, registered Democrats lead Republicans by 45.8 percent to 37.3 percent statewide. A tidy comparison to 2008 is unfortunately impossible. In 2008, the state reported only in-person voting without party registration. So, to infer something about the state of play in Nevada, we can examine the geographic distribution of support across counties, with the Democratic stronghold of Clark -- home of Las Vegas -- figuring most prominently.
So far in 2012, 263,782 Nevadans had voted in-person. In 2008 -- for the same number of days prior to the election -- 199,412 Nevadans had voted early in-person. In 2012, Clark County comprised 68.8 percent of those who had voted and in 2008 they were 68.4 percent. So, the geographic composition of the Nevada early electorate look similar to 2008, when Obama won the state by 12.2 percentage points.
The Nevada early vote thus points in the same direction we've seen in the polls, which consistently show Obama leads.