Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Early voting

Even if there is a late surge toward McCain, about which one might have hopes (but also doubts), the early voters may make this a done deal.

If in fact 30-35% of the voters will get to the polls early, and if they favor Obama by margins higher than the national polls suggest for the electorate at large (a function, if nothing else, of Obama’s well-funded campaign organization), then the math is hard to ignore. Suppose turnout is 150 million (a conservative estimate, I think). If 30% vote early, that’s 45 million. If Obama gets 60% of the early voters, he starts election day with a 9 million vote lead. At 55%, he starts with a 4.5 million vote lead. Under the first scenario, McCain would have to win 54% of the votes on election day to pull even. Under the second, he’d have to win 52.5% of the votes. Only the second seems even a remote possibility.

Of course, the national result doesn’t matter, except in the minds of those who bear bitter memories of 2000. Not all states permit early voting. Among the battleground states that make it easy are Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Iowa (I’m being generous to McCain here), Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio, and Wisconsin. McCain has a tiny lead in the RCP average in only one of them (Indiana). I don’t have time to do the math for all these states, but, again, McCain would have to perform significantly better than the polls to overcome a lead Obama established in the early voting.

This is not impossible, especially if the Obama campaign got a higher proportion of its voters to the polls early, leaving the McCain a somewhat larger share of the Election Day electorate. But if you give a well-organized and well-funded campaign a couple of extra weeks actually physically to get its voters to the polls, they’re going to take advantage of it. The turnout of likely Democratic voters will be higher than ever, since there’s more time to drive busloads and vanloads of voters to the polls.

An eleventh hour break in McCain’s direction is highly unlikely to overcome the advantage Obama has established. Hillary Rodham Clinton would, on some level, sympathize.

Discussions - 6 Comments

Ther are a lot of assumptions in this analysis. The one thing that can be said about early voters though is that they are *decided* voters. Those still undecided, and changeable, will likely wait until the last minute.

In other words, I predict that the vast majority of early voters are ones who have already made up their minds on the election. FWIW, One of these is my spouse, who pulled the lever for McCain.

So, even assuming that Obama pulls in 60% of early voters, which I think would be a high number, the overall voting population would reamin about the same, with any late breaking voters going in whatever direction they might have. Those who are still undecided at this point are not likely to vote early. The danger McCain must worry about is whether they will vote at all. The GOTV efforts will be hugely important.

There is a potential downside for Obama, and that is if the early voting buzz fades a bit and some people decide to skip voting because Obama's a done deal. People forget that in a close election, if one side thinks it's over, their voters are just as likely to take a pass.

One more thing...The Hillary/primary analogies don't really work here. we're not looking at a process extended by months where the horse-race model works. The vast majority of votes will be made over the period of a week and a half. Any swings will occur among the undecided voters and I fully expect the vast majority of them to wait until the 4th.

The only thing to be concerned about with the early voting is if there really is the kind of increased turnout in the specific demographics that will help Obama. Even then, if the overall turnout increases, those could be mitigated, although overall turnout increase, based on the general RV polls, seems likely to favor Obama.

1 -- "ME," you're right on all points. This hand-wringing about the possible early voting results is silly.

I'm a bit confused (or too lazy to click all the links). How much of this post is pure hypothesis, and how much of it is based on real-world data?

I'm confused especially because the second sentence seems to start with the conditional mood but switches to the declarative: "IF some percent go to the polls early, and IF they favor Obama by such-and-such, then the math IS hard to ignore."

Which is it?

And gentlemen: No offense, but your comments system is dreadful, in a number of ways. It just took me 10 minutes to get the above comment properly posted. Come on... I know that comments are a bonus, not a necessity, but your readers shouldn't have to deal with manual paragraph breaks, weird captchas, browser back buttons for editing, and comments that don't "take" on the first dozen tries.

I hope all the conservatives on here load their cars with smokes and mad dog 20 20 and GOTV like crazy on tuesday. I guess you can pick up voters from park benches.

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