The Campaign Spot

A Nomination For the Biggest Poll Sample Ever

Steve Nathan, the pollster/consultant in Nevada who’s compiling a poll of that state’s early voters, contacted me with his final sample size: a whopping 16,749 early voters. To refresh your memory, he had Obama ahead, 51.63 percent to 45.51 percent, with 2.87 percent going to other candidates.

The one wrinkle is that Nathan doesn’t ask respondents for their party ID. Obviously, a 6 percent lead in a heavily-Republican or even sample is good news, but a 6 percent lead in a heavily-Democratic sample might be reason for Team Obama to sweat.

To get a sense of whether Obama’s margin among early voters was manageable, I’ve been applying the state’s statistics on who has voted so far, and presuming that the partisan divide among early voters in rural counties was in line with county party registration numbers.

(Nathan added that the early voting in rural counties was much lower than Clark and Washoe. Clark’s early voters were 48 percent of registered voters, and in Carson City it hit 50 percent. But in most of the rural counties, early voters topped out at 30 percent, and generally were in the teens or low 20s.)

Nathan thinks Obama will win by a small margin; he thinks Obama has run up too much of an advantage in the early voting for McCain to overcome. By my calculations, McCain can win by a small margin so long as Republicans turn out. A reader or two noted that Nathan ran for office as a Democrat earlier this year, but that doesn’t give me any major reason to doubt his numbers. His firm is nonpartisan.

Obama leads by 6 percent, in an early voter population that has a Democratic advantage of at least 2 percent and probably about 13 percent. (In a bizarro world where all the rural county voters are Democrats, the partisan split would be the Democrats by 27 percent.) That suggests a decent number of Democrats for McCain, and/or good news for McCain among independents…

…but I guess we will see.

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