Early Voting and Ground Games

I thought it might be interesting to take a look at some early voting statistics in five of the swing states that allow for early voting.

**Party Affiliation of Early Voters**
State Democrats Republicans Independents / Unknown Party Affiliation
Colorado 35% 38% 27%
Florida 43% 41% 16%
Iowa 43% 32% 25%
Nevada 44% 38% 18%
North Carolina 48% 32% 20%

Looks pretty good if you’re a Democrat.  Outside of Colorado the Democrats are leading in every state.  Colorado is very close and since almost a third of the early vote has been cast by independents, it’s too close to call.  But the thing to remember is Democrats tend to vote earlier than Republicans when they can. So some of these will even out by the time election day rolls around.  It’s probably still better to look at the polling numbers coming out of the state than attach too much importance on early voting numbers.  Additionally, if Independents in each state above break more towards one candidate or the other, it has the potential to seriously upend the race.

Still, especially with those factors in mind, I’d always rather have the lead than not. Based on these numbers, I wouldn’t change my previous prediction on which candidate will have electoral victories in specific states.  I’m still calling an Obama victory in Nevada, Iowa, and Colorado and Romney wins in Florida and North Carolina.  Florida and North Carolina are still quite close.  Closer now than they were when I made my original prediction. So maybe the ground games of each candidate comes more into play.

Campaign Local Offices
State Obama Romney
Colorado 61 14
Florida 102 48
Iowa 66 13
Nevada 26 12
North Carolina 53 24

Again, this is not only an obvious advantage, like with early voting, but an overwhelming one.  Numerous articles have been written about the superiority of the President’s ground game.  But I don’t know how that specifically translates into votes.  Yes, more offices means more volunteers.  And more volunteers means more contact with voters and therefore drives GOTV efforts.  But if it were just based on manpower alone, the race wouldn’t be nearly this close.  Is it effective?  Sure.  But how much more effective is it than the Romney campaigns efforts?  No one can really answer that. If the President gets re-elected, I’m sure that our always-astute news media will trumpet the ground game advantage. But if Romney wins, there’ll be just as many articles written about the effectiveness of a smaller ground game.  I just don’t think it’s that simple.

There are other complexities to this which makes it even more difficult to discern the actual effects of each candidate’s ground game.  One, of course, is Citizens United, which opened the door to corporations giving unlimited money anonymously towards political ends.  A corporation could, for example, form a SuperPAC and specifically run ads to sway the election one way or the other.  Another is the voter suppression efforts engineered by Republicans to ensure that a smaller proportion of the electorate votes — these efforts concentrate on restricting early voting windows (see the note above about who tends to vote early) and tightening ID requirements at the polling booth (see NSFW Sarah Silverman video for a fun demonstration on how that works out for traditionally Democratic voting groups).  After all, if students and minorities are much more likely to vote Democrat, why not make it more difficult for them to vote at all?

So the President might have more than twice as many offices and volunteers as the Romney campaign in Florida.  But is it enough to overcome a state that already famous for voter suppression tactics amongst key Democratic constituents?  And maybe Romney is outgunned in Colorado.  But we don’t have records of what outside groups are spending or even doing on his behalf in the Centennial State.

One thing is for certain, we’ll find out how effective each campaign is or isn’t in a few days.

Categories: Politics Fix

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