Tracking Early Voting Non-Anecdotally

So like many of you, I’ve casually followed early voting news from the battleground states, and had the impression that Dems were doing well in Iowa and maybe Ohio, while Republicans were doing well in North Carolina and Florida. Makes sense, right? But a closer look by Aaron Blake at WaPo’s The Fix shows it’s all a little more complicated. Iowa does seem to be fitting the anecdotal evidence:

The only state where we have a large amount of data is showing very good signs for Democrats. About 219,000 Iowans have cast early votes or absentee ballots (13.4 percent of the state’s 2008 turnout), and so far the breakdown is 53 percent Democratic and 28 percent Republican.

Republicans have been steadily narrowing that gap, but right now, Democrats are exceeding even their 2008 early voting performance, when they carried the early vote by 18 points and President Obama won the state by nine points.

Okay. How about Florida?

A Republican National Committee memo last week cited its their edge in absentee ballots in a number of states, including Florida. But you need to look at those numbers in context. The Herald’s Marc Caputo notes that, at this point in 2008, Republicans had a 16-point advantage in absentee ballots and still lost the state. Today, that advantage is just four points.

It’s yet to be seen whether Florida Democrats can match their 2008 advantage in in-person early voting, particularly given the restrictions on opportunities that Rick Scott and a GOP legislature enacted. But Florida’s not a GOP success story for early voting just yet.

In Ohio, the in-person early voting looks good for Democrats, except for the fact that it’s down significantly from 2008 in Cuyahoga County (Cleveland), which is crucial for statewide Democratic prospects.

And in North Carolina, headlines about big GOP advantages in absentee ballot requests disguise the facts that (1) Republicans always dominate this type of voting in the Tar Heel State, and (2) early in-person voting begins later this week.

It’s too early for early voting to be calculated with any precision. The general feeling is that Team Mitt is doing a better job at it than Team McCain did, but that’s kind of like saying the Washington Nats won it all this year by showing baseball’s best improvement.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.