Early voting trends in Ohio are boosting GOP hopes that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney can defy the polls and grab the key swing state that many analysts believe will determine the outcome of the presidential election.
Although no actual votes are counted in Ohio before polls close, early-voting information released Tuesday morning by the Ohio Secretary of State’s office strongly suggest that Romney has made major inroads into the early-vote advantage President Obama enjoyed there in 2008.
According to the Cook Report’s Dave Wasserman, 24.8 percent of voters registered in Democratic-leaning Ohio counties voted early in 2008, compared to just 19.1 percent in Republican-leaning counties that election. The advantage in early voting propelled Obama to victory in 2008, despite the fact the GOP turnout was better on Election Day.
One sign of potential trouble for Team Obama in this election: It appears the Romney campaign has substantially diminished the early-voting lead the Obama campaign had in 2008. According to the data posted on the Ohio Secretary of State’s website, 21.7 percent of voters in Democratic-leaning Ohio counties voted early in this election, compared to 21.3 percent of voters who cast early ballots in Republican-leaning counties.
Of course, percentages can be misleading and some counties have many more residents than others. Matt McClellan, press secretary for Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, tells Newsmax that the state’s election officials have been instructed to count absentee and early ballots first as soon the polls close at 7:30 ET.
Those results, expected to be posted about 7:45 p.m. on the state’s election website, will be the first indication of just how strong the Obama campaign’s Ohio firewall really is.
About 1.8 million of the state’s 7.8 million voters cast early ballots.
Deputy Obama campaign manager Stephanie Cutter in a conference call with reporters on Monday afternoon urged Democrats to remain calm as exit poll reports emerge Tuesday. Because the Obama campaign already has put so much of its vote in the books through early voting, she said, “The early exit polls are not going to accurately reflect where the vote is.”
This led the Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin to remark that in the past it has been Republicans, rather than Democrats, who have “gotten needlessly freaked out by exit polling, in part, we suspect, because exit pollsters don’t get an accurate sampling and/or Republicans don’t like to talk to them. That Cutter should be warning her troops is, to put it mildly, odd.”
Rubin added that if the Obama campaign has in fact “banked a pretty big portion” of its vote, the campaign should be worried because the Democratic early vote is relatively weaker than it was in 2008.
The Hill’s A.B. Stoddard told Fox News on Tuesday afternoon that the Romney campaign is confident it will emerge victorious in the Buckeye State.
“Romney still feels, and I think it’s genuine, confident there,” said Stoddard. “They’ve made a huge push there to find their new voters. They’re trying to make a push with evangelicals to turn out Republicans who sat out McCain’s election, and came out for Bush in 2004. And they’re hoping they’re going to get them to the polls today.”
But Obama campaign insiders remain supremely confident as well -- so much so, tweeted Bloomberg’s Jonathan Alter, that Obama campaign officials would be genuinely “shocked” if they do not win.
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