As we go into any primary or general election day, it’s important to remember that significant numbers of voters have already cast ballots by in-person or by-mail early voting (no thanks to Republican election officials around the country who have been fighting to reduce early voting opportunities).
Sometimes that means that “late developments” in a contest don’t matter as much as you might think, since they obviously don’t affect ballots cast earlier (this is one of several reasons many campaigns make a special effort to “bank” early votes). Back in 2012, I mentioned that I received the one mailer sent out by the re-election campaign of my local mayor the Saturday before Election Day, when roughly 70% of the vote in my town had already been cast by mail (she lost very badly).
But sometimes early voting saves candidates who run into late trouble. Oregon famously has an all-mail-ballot voting system. So the brouhaha that just blew up involving stalking-the-boyfriend charges against GOP SEN frontrunner Monica Wehby is unlikely to have a big impact on the primary’s outcome tomorrow.
Looking at Georgia, another red-hot-primary state, you have to wonder if the apparent late surge by Senate candidate Karen Handel happened a bit too late. Nearly 150,000 early Republican ballots have been received so far (with in-person early voting cut off on Friday and just a bit more time for mail-in absentee ballots to trickle in). In 2010, early ballots represented close to a fourth of all those cast in the Georgia primary. The campaigns with the most to spend on aggressive early vote “banking” and also on TV ads are likely to have done very well. A SUSA poll concluded just over a week ago showed the cash-strapped Handel running fifth among those reporting they had already voted. Not much she can do about it now other than over-performing on Election Day itself.