As they study the absentee ballots and early-voting data in Florida, Republicans are feeling better about Mitt Romneyâ€™s chances of putting that crucial battleground state back into the GOP column.
Thatâ€™s because the Democratsâ€™ huge 2008 advantage on that front has shrunk to a more manageable level. Four years ago, 354,374 more Florida Democrats than Republicans voted early or absentee before Election Day â€“ while in 2012 that margin is down to just 161,884, according to an analysis of state data compiled Tuesday by David Johnson, one of the stateâ€™s premier party strategists.
Caveat: These numbers reflect how many people registered to each party have voted, not actual votes for Romney or President Obama. Moreover, some 800,000 people registered to minor parties or no party also voted absentee or early.
(Johnsonâ€™s memo does not attempt to explain reasons for the shift, so hereâ€™s some speculation: The narrowed advantage for Democrats could reflect a diminished enthusiasm for Obama, or an increased excitement among Republicans, or it could be a byproduct of the decision by the GOP-led legislature this year to reduce the number of early-voting days in the state from 14 to 8. Also, expect both sides to spin these numbers, as Republicans hype their ability to close the 2008 gap and Democrats boast that they still hold a lead.)
Addressing his memo to GOP leaders, Johnson writes:
â€śMore total votes have been cast at this point in 2012 compared to 2008 by a margin of 153,951 ballots, yet the Democrat over Republican margin is down 192,490 votes. No unusual activity has been reported as of 1:30 p.m. EST, the usual glitches and some lines in precincts, but nothing out of the ordinary.
â€śAssociated Press analysis of 2008 returns found John McCain won Floridaâ€™s voting at the polls on Election Day by 5 percentage points. Barack Obama carried the Early/Absentee votes by 11 points. This of course factored in the Other/No Party actual votes cast. However, strictly examining partisan Early/Absentee voting on Election Day morning 2012, the Democrat to Republican margin is 3.6.â€ť