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.