For the most part, the early voting numbers for Republicans are pretty darn good.
There are some who argue that because turnout for a presidential election year is different from a midterm election year, the better comparison is to 2006. But early voting has grown more popular cycle by cycle, from about 7 percent in 1994 to about 14 percent in 2002 to almost 20 percent in 2006 to 30 percent last year. In particular, Democrats put a lot more effort into early voting in 2008 and overcame a traditional GOP advantage in this area. So it’s hard to compare early voting to results more than one cycle back.
Either way, the current House of Representatives is shaped by the electorate that voted in 2008; a lot of House Democrats who were carried along by the Obama wave will not be returning in January 2011, so I think a comparison to 2008 is worthwhile.
All of the figures below are from the United States Elections Project at GMU as of this morning; it is important to remember we are discussing the registered party affiliation of early voters, not how they actually vote. Of course, most Republicans will vote for the GOP candidate, and most registered Democrats will vote for the Democrat.
Colorado: Early voting in 2008: 37.7 percent Democrat, 35.9% GOP, 26.4 percent independent.
Early voting so far in 2010: 36% Democrat, 41.7% GOP, 21.6 percent independent.
Some folks argued that’s disappointing for a surge. But I would note that Ken Buck and Michael Bennet are splitting the independents pretty evenly. This one will be close, but good GOP turnout is a good sign for Buck.
Florida: This is the amazing one. Early voting in 2008: 45.6 percent Democrat, 37.3 percent Republican, 17.1 percent independent.
Early voting in 2010: 33.7 percent Democrat, 52.8 percent Republican, 13.5 percent independent.
Perhaps all of the independents and Democrats are waiting until Election Day to vote. Or perhaps the traditionally GOP-leaning Sunshine State is about to go deep red this year.
Iowa: Here Democrats can celebrate the smallest drop-off. In 2008, early votes split 46.9 percent Democrat, 28.9 percent Republican, 24.2 percent other; so far this year, it is 45.5 percent Democrat, 38.1 percent Republican, 16.4 percent other.
Louisiana: Another huge swing. In 2008, the state’s early vote was 58 percent registered Democrats, 28.7 Republicans, and 13.3 percent other. This year, so far, it is 45.9 percent Democrat, 43.5 percent Republican, 10.6 percent other. African-Americans were 35.6 percent of early voters in 2008; this cycle, so far, they make up 20.2 percent.
(It’s worth noting that Louisiana has a lot of conservative voters who are registered Democrats.)
Maine: Another big surge for the GOP. In 2008, the early vote split 41.1 percent Democrat, 27.7 percent Republicans, 31.2 percent other. So far in 2010 it is 37.1 percent Democrats, 36.9 percent Republicans, 24.2 percent independent, 1.8 percent Green.
Maryland: Democrats probably don’t have to worry too much here. The state did not collect party ID on early voters in 2008, but so far this year it breaks down 63.8 percent Democrat, 27.4 percent Republican, 8.8 percent other. (Note: Maryland didn’t have “early voting” per se, but it had absentee voting, which some states count as “early votes.”)
Nevada: Clark and Washoe Counties break down their vote by party registration.
In 2008, Clark was 52 percent Democrat, 30.6 percent Republican, 17.4 percent other; in 2010, so far, it is 46 percent Democrat, 38.2 percent Republican, 15.9 percent other.
In 2008, Washoe was 47.1 percent Democrat, 35.3 percent Republican, 17.5 percent other; in 2010, so far, it is 40.2 percent Democrat, 45.9 percent Republican, 13.9 percent other.
Overall, NRO contributor Elizabeth Crum sees a GOP surge.
North Carolina: Barack Obama shocked the nation by winning North Carolina in 2008, and he was helped by an early vote that split 51.4 percent Democrat, 30.2 percent Republican, 18.5 percent none or other. This year, Democrats are seeing a drop-off: 44.6 percent Democrat, 38 percent Republican, 17.3 percent independent/none/other.
With a week until Election Day, the numbers of Republican absentee ballots cast in Cuyahoga and Hamilton counties are close to surpassing the numbers from 2008, a presidential year with generally a higher turnout. And in Franklin County, absentee ballots cast are running pretty close to even between voters of the major parties — 29,419 for Democrats to 28,506 for Republicans — after running more than 2-to-1 for Democrats in 2008. In the state’s largest three counties combined, Republicans have cast about 40 percent of the partisan absentee ballots compared to only 26 percent in 2008 . . . Democrats have explanations, but local Republicans have grins on their faces as they see GOP absentee ballots close to surging past 2008 levels in Cuyahoga County while Democrats have barely hit the halfway mark.
Pennsylvania: This state did not break down its early vote by partisan registration in 2008, but so far in 2010 — with only 49,756 votes so far — it is 56.4 percent Republican, 34.7 percent Democrat, and 6.2 percent Democrat.
West Virginia: The news isn’t all bad for Democrats. In 2008, it was 53 percent Democrat, 29.1 percent Republican, 9.1 percent other. In the state’s early voting period this year, it was 55 percent Democrat, 35.3 percent Republican, and 9.6 percent other. (Keep in mind that Obama lost the state by a wide margin in 2008, so plenty of West Virginia Democrats voted for John McCain.)
Now, all of the standard caveats apply: Early voting is still going on in most states, so the numbers may shift in the coming days. And standard Election Day get-out-the-vote efforts still count for a lot, as the Election Day vote will probably be 70-80 percent of the total. But Republicans can feel pretty good with what they’re seeing so far.