Republicans are getting very optimistic about new trends emerging in early voting results in key states, which mostly shows Democrats casting more early ballots but not at the pace that Obama set in his victory in 2008 over Republican John McCain by 7 percentage points.
"What we're seeing consistently ... is that there is a general underperforming in places where President Obama needs to do well and there's an over-performing in places where Governor Romney does well," Romney's political director Rich Beeson said on "Fox News Sunday."
Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod said Obama's early leads in states like Nevada and Iowa and the vital swing state of Ohio would hold up on Election Day, even if he does not repeat the size of his victory in 2008.
"I'm not suggesting we're going to win by the same margin we won in 2008. They are comparing themselves to John McCain, who had virtually no ground operation in many of these states," Axelrod said on "Fox News Sunday."
"So, yes, they are going to do a little better than McCain did, and we may not do as well as we did in 2008, but we're doing plenty well - and well enough to win this race," he said.
The Associated Press reports that thousands of people waited for hours in long lines during the last weekend of early voting in Ohio.
At some sites Sunday, lines snaked for several city blocks and it took hours to cast a ballot. In Cleveland, more than 2,500 people braved the cold in a line that stretched two blocks on Sunday afternoon.
In Akron, voters waited an average of two hours to vote Sunday. In Columbus, 15,000 people waited in line for as long as two hours from Friday through Sunday to cast early ballots in a state that could decide the presidential election.
In Cincinnati, several thousand voters waited for as long as four hours in sometimes-rainy chilly weather.
About 1.6 million people have voted early in Ohio.
In Indiana, residents have only a few more hours to cast early ballots for this year's hotly contested presidential, Senate, governor's and other races.
Voters can cast early in-person ballots for Tuesday's election until noon Monday at county courthouses and other locations around the state.
In Indianapolis, the number of residents who've cast early ballots so far is down from 2008. But Marion County Clerk's office spokeswoman Angie Nussmeyer tells The Indianapolis Star that's likely due to this year's lack of satellite voting centers in Indianapolis, not reduced voter interest.
The Evansville Courier & Press reports that early voting in southwestern Indiana's Vanderburgh County appears poised to eclipse the number of early ballots cast in 2008.
In 2008, a record quarter of all Hoosiers voters cast early ballots.
About a quarter of Arkansas' registered voters have cast ballots early in this year's general election.
Early voting wraps up Monday in Arkansas. Overall, Secretary of State Mark Martin predicts a similar turnout to the 2008 general election, when nearly 65 percent of registered voters cast ballots.
Martin says more than 371,000 voters had cast ballots as of late Friday. The state has about 1.6 million registered voters.
Voters are casting ballots on the presidential race and congressional races. Most of the campaign's focus has been on House and Senate races around the state as Republicans try to win control of the state Legislature for the first time since Reconstruction.
On Election Day, polls are open from 7:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.
About 30 million people have already voted in 34 states and the District of Columbia, either by mail or in person. No votes will be counted until Tuesday but some key states are releasing the party affiliation of those who vote early, reports the Associated Press.
Obama is pressing to drive core supporters and wayward backers to the polls, while Republican challenger Mitt Romney reaches for an upset victory powered by anti-incumbent fervor on the final day of a race that polls suggest has tilted slightly in the president’s favor.
The candidates are chasing each other through eight of the most competitive states, as national and state-level data show Obama with a slim yet potentially decisive edge in the quest for the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win.
Meanwhile, Democrats appealed to a federal court in Ohio for clarification on last-minute rules imposed by the Republican secretary of state on voters who cast provisional ballots, generally used by those whose eligibility is in question, and in Florida, where long lines risk turning voters away.
The action leaves open the possibility for further disputes that could last through Election Day. Republicans say they are concerned with preventing voter fraud while Democrats argue they are working to protect voting rights.
The fight over every vote came as Obama led Romney 48 percent to 45 percent in an Oct. 31-Nov. 3 national poll conducted by the Pew Research Center, a survey that was deadlocked at 47 percent each a week ago.
Polls conducted by NBC News with the Wall Street Journal and ABC News with the Washington Post also showed movement for the president in recent days, albeit a one-percentage point edge for Obama that is inside the margin of error for both surveys.
In weekend polls in Ohio and Iowa, two of the most hard- fought states, the president held a slight advantage, suggesting the race will turn on which candidate does the better job of turning out his own supporters.
“Don’t wait” to vote, Obama urged a mostly black crowd of 13,500 voters packed into Cincinnati, Ohio’s Fifth Third Arena last night. “Who do you trust?” Obama asked the crowd, which shouted back “You!” Saying he knows what “real change” is, the president added: “I delivered it — I’ve got the scars to prove it.”
Romney, pressing to expand his potential routes to victory, made his first appearance in more than a month in Pennsylvania — a state that has favored Obama in polls until recently.
“Your voices are being heard all over the nation,” Romney told more than 20,000 people gathered at a farm in Morrisville, Pa. “The people of America understand that we’re taking back the White House, because we’re going to win Pennsylvania.”
Late Pennsylvania Clash
A Muhlenberg College/Morning Call poll conducted Nov. 1-3 found Obama leading Romney, 49 percent to 46 percent, within the margin of error of plus-or-minus five percentage points That’s a smaller edge than the five-percentage-point advantage the president held late last month.
Romney’s performance in the first presidential debate rendered the state a “great opportunity” for him, spokesman Kevin Madden said. David Plouffe, a senior adviser to Obama’s re-election effort, called the Republican’s Pennsylvania visit a “desperate ploy.”
Elsewhere, the movement in public sentiment signaled gains for Obama.
In Virginia, a NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist College poll released today showed Obama with 48 percent and Romney with 47 percent — a reversal of the Republican’s one-point advantage in the survey released Oct. 11 and well within the poll’s margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percentage points. The telephone survey of 1,165 likely voters was conducted Nov. 1-2.
In Ohio, a Columbus Dispatch poll put Obama over Romney, 50 percent to 48 percent, within the mail survey’s 2.2-percentage-point error margin among 1,501 likely voters. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released Nov. 3 showed Obama led Romney 51 percent to 45 percent in the state, outside the survey’s 3.1-percentage-point margin of error.
In Iowa, a Des Moines Register poll released the same day found Obama leading Romney, 47 percent to 42 percent, among likely voters.
While top strategists for both campaigns predicted victory, Romney betrayed slightly less conviction, telling voters in Cleveland, Ohio, yesterday that an Obama win was “possible — but not likely.”
National polls indicated a slight enthusiasm advantage among likely voters for the president, with ABC saying 69 percent of likely Obama voters were very enthusiastic, compared with 62 percent of Romney’s, and Pew saying 39 percent of likely Obama voters support him strongly, compared with 33 percent of Romney’s.
The Republican’s late Pennsylvania push came as early- voting returns showed the former Massachusetts governor will start tomorrow lagging in several of the most competitive states. Obama’s advantage is especially strong in Nevada and Iowa, while Romney has maintained an edge in Colorado.
Both campaigns put their spin on the numbers, with Obama’s camp arguing they have built insurmountable leads and Romney’s countering that they are positioned to obliterate any advantage on Election Day.
“For Governor Romney to win states like Ohio, Iowa, Nevada, and North Carolina, he’s going to have to carry Election Day by a huge margin,” Plouffe said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program yesterday.
Rich Beeson, Romney’s political director, said on “Fox News Sunday” that his team has done a better job at getting “low-propensity voters” — those who only cast ballots sporadically and typically need more prodding to do so — to the polls in advance. “Republicans, for whatever reason, tend to vote — like to vote on Election Day,” he said.
In Nevada, where the equivalent of 72 percent of the total 2008 vote has been cast, registered Democrats have completed 43.9 percent of ballots, Republicans 37 percent and independents 19.1 percent, state data shows. In a sign that both sides believe the state is trending toward Obama, neither he nor Romney visited during the final weekend of campaigning.
In Iowa, more than 613,000 people had cast ballots through Nov. 2, according to the secretary of state’s office, representing 39.8 percent of the total vote, if as many people participate as did in 2008. Registered Democrats have cast 42.6 percent of the ballots, compared with 32.3 percent by Republicans and 25 percent by independents.
Republicans have a slim edge in Colorado’s early voting, according to the secretary of state’s office. Of the vote turned in through Nov. 3, 36.9 percent is from registered Republicans, while Democrats represent 34.6 percent and independents 27.4 percent. About 68 percent of the total 2008 vote there has already been cast.
More than 4.4 million Floridians cast early and absentee ballots as of Nov. 3, according to the Florida State Department. Democratic voters cast 43 percent, while Republicans cast 39 percent.
Nationally, almost 30 million people have cast ballots, according to the United States Elections Project at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. More than a third of the total electorate is expected to vote early.
In Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin, voters don’t register by party, so it’s less clear which party has the early-vote edge. Still, Obama’s campaign is buoyed by evidence that early turnout is strong in Ohio counties that backed him in 2008.
Franklin and Cuyahoga counties — the most populous in the state — had through yesterday achieved 88 percent of the early vote they recorded four years ago when Obama won, according to data from the elections project and the county elections boards. Early voting will continue through today.
At the same time, some smaller Republican-leaning counties carried by Obama’s 2008 rival, Arizona Senator John McCain — including Warren in the southwest of the state and Washington in the southeast — have already outpaced their early voting total of four years ago.
Both candidates were trying to appeal to the vast majority of voters who have not yet cast a ballot.
“You reach across the street to your neighbor with a yard sign, and I’ll reach across the aisle to the people from the other party,” Romney promised several thousand voters in Des Moines.
Obama stumped with Bill Clinton, working to tie his record and philosophy to those of the former president and rekindle the bipartisan backing Clinton enjoyed -- even blaring his campaign anthem at rallies.
“By the end of President Clinton’s second term, America created 23 million new jobs, and incomes were up and poverty was down, and the deficit had become the biggest surplus in history,” Obama said in Concord, New Hampshire. “We know our ideas work.”
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