Late yesterday afternoon I spoke to Las Vegas-based consultant Steve Nathan, who heads the firm Dialing Nationwide Automatically that had those fascinating results of Nevada early voters. Their most recent numbers — now with 12,000 or so respondents — show better news for Obama – he’s up 2.5 percent to 52.5, while McCain’s down 3.5 percent to 44.5 percent. (Nathan was unable to provide a precise breakdown of the party registration of his respondents when we spoke; I hope to hear back from him but right now his firm is working like accountants in mid-April.)
Before this makes the McCain fans reach for the hemlock, remember this is in a voter pool that according to the state’s numbers, has a Democrat advantage of 53-30 percent in the county that includes Las Vegas and an advantage of 49-34 percent in the county that includes Reno. (Again, this is the partisan makeup of those who have already voted, not of all registered voters in these counties.)
The remaining counties make up 12.7 percent of the voters in the state. Nathan said that in recent days, he was seeing increased early voting from the more rural counties, and they were, as expected, heavily McCain.
I did some back of the envelope calculations. If you assume that every voter outside of those two counties is a Republican, the maximum share of the early vote the GOP could be would be 39.7 percent, and the minimum share for the Democrats would be 45.5. If the split in the early votes is more akin to the voter registration numbers in those counties, the Republican share of the early voters is 33.3 percent and the Democrats’ is 50.6 percent. If Obama is only ahead by 8 percent in a sample that is 17 percent more Democrats, then yesterday’s theory is upheld – there are more than a few pro-McCain Democrats that have cast ballots in Nevada already. (Or, alternatively, the independents are heavily pro-McCain, or both.)
Now, yesterday’s headline might have been a little hyperbolic — it’s still possible that massive numbers of Nevada Republicans stay home, or that massive numbers of Nevada Republicans vote for Obama. But right now, a huge advantage in terms of which party shows up for early voting has translated to a surprisingly modest lead for Obama. Unless there is something glaringly off-base about these numbers, then McCain will carry Nevada on Tuesday, as long If pro-McCain Republicans show up and vote.
Early voting in the state ends today; Nathan expected to have a completed survey of early voters by Monday.