Here’s how the Romney campaign sees the early vote in Iowa:
Amid a much-hyped public relations campaign for in-person satellite voting, which included voting locations next to Obama rallies and visits from Hollywood stars like Seinfeld’s Jason Alexander, the numbers tell a very different story. As of today, the Democrats are running 14,904 votes short of their 2008 performance, while Republicans are running 8,038 votes ahead of 2008.
So instead of an 18-point margin, Democrats maintain only a 5-point margin. With absentee ballots, Democrats lead in both requests and returns, as they have every cycle. And while Democrats have increased their AB and early-vote performance by 119 percent overall, Republicans have increased ours by 131 percent. So their raw-vote lead isn’t nearly as important as the dramatic slippage in margin. In combined absentee and in-person voting, their lead is barely 12 percent. That’s well within the margin Republicans need to be able to win on Tuesday, given our historic advantage among Election Day voters.
In fact, the current Democratic margin is below the margin they held ahead of George W. Bush’s reelection in 2004, the first Republican to carry Iowa since Reagan.
And the key statistic our voting models point to is that the GOP has, as of today, 87,481 more high-propensity voters available to vote on Election Day because many more of our most committed voters have made the choice to vote on November 6. Tens of thousands more mid-propensity voters are also available, which will grow our Election Day margins even further.
According to the George Mason Elections Center, 557,432 early votes have been cast in Iowa so far. Using the percentage breakdown provided by that site, we calculate that about 241,600 registered Democrats, 179,800 registered Republicans, 136,300 no party or other have voted.
This gives the Democrats a pure registered-party-member advantage of about 62,000. How have the no party/other crowd split? The University of Iowa poll has Obama leading among independents, 41.9 percent to 40.2 percent — yes, those seem low to me, too. The Marist poll in Iowa found “Obama has a 21 point lead among Independent voters who plan to cast an early ballot, while Romney is up 9 points among independents who plan to vote on Election Day.” Let’s give Obama a 60–40 split in the no party or other (although some undoubtedly are voting third party) and give him a 27,000-vote advantage in the independents.
That gives Obama an 89,000-vote advantage in the early vote; as noted above, the Romney campaign thinks they have about 87,000 more “high-propensity voters” than the Democrats do. That looks like a really close race . . . until you get to the independents who haven’t voted early, where Romney leads by 9 in Marist (let’s say 54–45).
We don’t know how many Iowa independents will vote on Election Day, but we know 1.5 million people voted in Iowa in 2008, and 33 percent were independent, according to the exit polls, so we’re looking at roughly 500,000 independent/no party/third party voters in the state. We also know that 26.1 percent of the 675,402 early voters in 2008 were no party or other party — 176,280. In other words, in 2008, about 323,000 independents voted on Election Day instead of voting early.
If Romney has a lead of 9 points among independents, he wins. The only question is by how many votes. If independent turnout on Election Day is 50 percent of 2008, Romney wins by 14,000 votes. If it’s 70 percent of 2008, he wins by 20,000 votes. If it’s 90 percent, he wins by 26,000 votes.