Early voting has grow dramatically over the last few election cycles and reading the tea leaves is becoming a cottage industry. Today we see genuinely positive news for the Romney campaign regarding absentee voting in Virginia with a few caveats outlined at the very bottom. An analysis of absentee voting in Virginia reveals the following:
Early absentee ballot in Virginia is brisk in cities and counties that voted Republican in the last presidential election, according to a breakdown of absentee ballots cast so far this year for the November 6 election. As of Friday, the State Board of Elections reports that 60,612 voters had mailed in an absentee ballot or cast an absentee vote in person since September 21. This year, Virginia Republicans are mobilizing supporters to “vote early” this year, to avoid a repeat of 2008 when Obama won nearly two-thirds of the 511,933 absentee ballots cast in Virginia.
- Seven of the 10 localities reporting the fastest rate of absentee voting this year compared to four years ago were won by Republican John McCain.
- Seven of the 10 localities reporting the slowest pace of absentee balloting this year were carried by Democrat Barack Obama.
The lessons from this analysis are more stark if you look at them in reverse. The “slow” Obama localities lead you to draw inferences that enthusiasm is way down for Obama, which is consistent with everything we see in polls. When you combine that with the “fast” McCain localities you see high enthusiasm in GOP hotbeds which exacerbates the bad news for Obama and good news for Romney. These types of changes are huge considering one of the ways Obama won so decisively in 2008 was the volume of votes he banked before election day often creating insurmountable advantages.
|LOCALITIES WITH THE MOST BRISK ABSENTEE VOTING||LOCALITIES WITH THE SLOWEST RATE OF ABSENTEE VOTING|
BTW: On the “slowest localities” I think the chart is supposed to be in reverse order but I just used the original graphics.
I do genuinely believe the above analysis is correct and Romney 2012 is capturing the enthusiasm wave mentioned. However, evidence like the above is why I am hesitant to blog early voting. The takeaways are really anecdotal not certain, meaning they can lead you to draw logical inferences that may be completely untrue beneath the surface.
If you take the exact same numbers from above, you could argue something very different is going on. Every poll shows Barack Obama has his base locked up, even moreso than Romney. And many of these demographics support him to such high levels he has little room to find more votes among those groups. So if Obama is going to find votes he needs to send his ground troops into red areas and make certain every last Obama person in an otherwise red area votes. The way to do that is a) find them, and b) convince them to vote early. To be clear Obama achieved this to wonderful success in 2008 and there is little reason to believe he can’t do similar in 2012. To assume otherwise is hubris and politically dangerous. Under this analysis, Team Obama who has a history of success in early voting may be achieving the same success as 2008, but now they’re doing it in red areas. So the “fast” red localities are really just the vaunted Obama ground game playing on their opponent’s turf while the “slow” Obama localities are are areas where Obama is confident those votes are locked up in his favor and they can get attention later in the race. this is how a Democrat might see the exact same numbers and they are not necessarily wrong.
That said, I do not believe this second analysis is accurate based on the nature of Obama’s campaign strategy which is a base turnout. Obama does not campaign in Battleground Counties like Romney does, his campaign is one of division towards targeted Democrat demographics not reaching out to red areas, and these findings are consistent the enthusiasm gap we see nationwide. I only point out this alternative, and defensible, view point so we don’t get too far ahead of ourselves over metrics that while positive for the GOP are not as certain to achieve the results glass-half-full partisans might think.