In-person absentee voting began in Iowa today, and it was also a good time to take a look at the only really verifiable indicator of party mobilization this far out, absentee ballot requests by party affiliation. Bleeding Heartland reported cautious optimism among Democrats, reporting a slightly better than two-to-one margin over Republicans in ballot requests. In addition, the roughly 20% of requests from unaffiliated voters may indicate a hidden strength for Democrats since they usually target these voters more than do Republicans.

The real situation is hard to deduce since it matters a lot whether early votes that are “banked” are coming from marginal or “base” voters. The former are significantly more valuable.

Having said all that, it was a successful early voting program four years ago that was generally credited for limiting Republican gains in 2010, and for saving Leonard Boswell’s House seat (which he lost after redistricting); it was a big factor again in giving Obama an easy win despite iffy approval rating numbers in the state. With a highly competitive Senate race and a highly competitive House race in Boswell’s old district (a GQRR poll this week for the DCCC showed Democrat Staci Appel up by three points), it could be crucial again.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.